Minnesota is abuzz this week with the excitement of a Week 1 victory over the rival Green Bay Packers. It was actually less of a victory, and more of a pure domination in nearly every facet of the game. That said, as Kevin O’Connell mentioned in his Monday press conference, there are always things to improve upon. One of these improvements that must be made is a very familiar problem that has been beaten to death within media circles: the Vikings interior offensive line.
A Tale as Old as Time
Once again on Sunday, the center and right guard spots proved to be problematic for Minnesota, especially in pass protection. Garrett Bradbury played like his usual self at the center position, recording a PFF grade of 59.5. Meanwhile, looking at Ed Ingram’s overall grade of 79.3, it’d be easy to come to the conclusion that the rookie had a very successful NFL debut.
This isn’t necessarily false, depending on how one looks at it. On one hand, Ingram was a force to be reckoned with in the running game. His grade of 87.4 on run-blocking snaps was the second highest among all guards in the NFL during Week 1.
He made many impressive plays to open up lanes for Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison throughout the afternoon, helping them average 4.5 yards per carry on 28 rushes. Nick Olson, one of the film gurus of Vikings fandom, shared multiple plays of his where he obliterates the Packers defensive line, such as this one:
Success in the running game is outstanding when you have backs like Cook and Mattison to turn to. That said, the main problem with the Vikings interior offensive line is, and always has been, standing up in pass protection. Ingram struggled to do that in Week 1 against the Packers. He was given a score of 31.2 in pass protection snaps by PFF. There were multiple occasions where Green Bay defensive linemen, such as two-time Pro Bowler DT Kenny Clark.
Stay Optimistic About This Vikings Offensive Line
As much as Ingram struggled in pass-pro during his first NFL game, there’s reason to stay optimistic about this version of the Vikings offensive line. Firstly, we’ve always said that as a whole, if the Vikings can reach a place where they are at least average in pass protection, they’ll find success as a team.
Well, they may have done exactly that on Sunday. If you combine the ESPN and PFF analytics, as Ben Baldwin (aka the Computer Cowboy) did, the Vikings land pretty much right smack dab in the middle of the pack.
With very strong games from Ezra Cleveland, Christian Darrisaw, and Brian O’Neill, the overall pass protection from the Vikings held up well on Sunday. This is especially so considering the Vikings pass rush features multiple Pro Bowlers like Clark and Rashan Gary as well as young studs in Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt.
If the Vikings can play average against top units like Green Bay, and especially if Ingram continues to develop throughout the year, the Vikings offensive line should be much better this year than it has in seasons past. It may take a little bit of time to get there, but this was overall a strong start for the young o-line.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh‘s hobbies include training for a marathon, playing video games, and rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken