At the start of training camp, it’s necessary to evaluate where things stand for one of the biggest storylines we’ll follow closely with the Minnesota Vikings over the next six weeks.
The state of the offensive line dominated the conversation throughout the offseason and continues to be a major talking point as the team works through the early stages of installing a new offense.
How much better will the line be in 2019?
Minnesota surrendered a league-high 227 pressures and ranked 29th in pass-blocking efficiency during its 8-7-1 season, according to Pro Football Focus. The line underwent significant changes this offseason, beginning with the departure of Mike Remmers, Nick Easton and Tom Compton followed by the addition of Josh Kline in free agency along with spending three draft picks on O-linemen (Garrett Bradbury in the first round, Dru Samia in the fourth and Oli Udoh in the sixth). The biggest area of improvement is with the interior personnel. Last season, Remmers, Compton and Pat Elflein ranked in the bottom 17 of all interior linemen in pressures allowed (109). With Bradbury slated to play center, Elflein is expected to move to left guard, a position he thrived at in college. Riley Reiff is an above average left tackle who has managed to stay relatively healthy throughout his time in Minnesota, and the Vikings are eager to see how another year in the NFL with time to add size to his frame will help Brian O’Neill grow at right tackle. On paper, the Reiff-Elflein-Bradbury-Kline-O’Neill starting five is a considerable upgrade.
Does Minnesota have sustainable depth?
Injuries decimated the O-line in 2016 and were part of the Vikings shortcomings the following two seasons, including the year they played for an NFC Championship. No team has an abundance of starting-caliber offensive linemen. However, the Vikings are in a far better position now versus a year ago where depth was tested early with Easton sustaining a neck injury that caused him to miss the season, Elflein and Remmers missing camp with injuries and backup tackle/guard Aviante Collins being placed on IR after Week 1. The area where the Vikings have the most depth is with their guards and centers, between Samia, Brett Jones, Dakota Dozier and Danny Isidora and a handful of others who could wind up on the practice squad. Tackle is a bit shakier, but Rashod Hill has started multiple games for the Vikings over the past two seasons.
Where is the biggest position battle?
Kline came to Minnesota in free agency after his former team, the Tennessee Titans, signed Rodger Saffold in March. Kline inked a three-year deal with the Vikings worth $15.75 million with $7.25 million guaranteed at signing, but that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to start at right guard. Though he has the longest active streak of starts (46) at right guard league-wide, he’s a lower-tier starter who surrendered 38 pressures last season. The Vikings traded up to draft Samia out of Oklahoma, where he notched 38 consecutive starts at right guard. Samia is the prototype for a zone blocker with strong athletic abilities that allow him to reach laterally along with the movement skills needed to elevate things to the second level.