Kevin O’Connell drops potential hint on Vikings OL changes

The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line didn’t deliver as needed in a 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and changes could be coming.

“We’ll get with [general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] and his staff,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said after the game regarding a potential OL addition.

“Oli [Udoh] is going to be out for a while which is incredibly unfortunate with the amount of reps that he had in training camp. [Center] Garrett’s [Bradbury] progressing. [Center] Austin [Schlottman] stepped in there tonight. And then hopefully [left tackle] Christian [Darrisaw] was close enough that maybe we can project we have him,” O’Connell continued.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not the Vikings will look outside the building for help at left tackle or center remains to be seen. The free agent market looks fairly bleak at present. Players like left tackle Eric Fisher, center Ben Jones, and center Billy Price are out there, but one wonders if the Vikings have interest.

Of course, a lot of Vikings fans will be thinking of Dalton Risner since he previously met with the team. More recently, the o-lineman has even suggested he’d be willing to join the Vikings.

“I think we are always looking at ways to solidify not only certain position groups but our whole football team,” O’Connell said. “If there’s ways we can do that to competitively attack this thing we’ll take a look at it. But I do have a lot of confidence in our guys but clearly we’ve got to do something a little bit differently and really focus on how to run the football better to help our pass game and how we are going about moving it.”

Kevin O’Connell and The Vikings Offensive Line

Injuries aside, Minnesota could use an upgrade (or two) across the board on the offensive line. The Vikings rank 14th in pass blocking and 23rd in run blocking, based on Pro Football Focus grades.

With the exception of tackle Brian O’Neill, everyone on the Vikings offensive line graded at 65.5 or lower via PFF’s grading system. O’Neill graded at 86.2 through two games.

Brian O'Neill
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The drop-off begins with backup tackle David Quessenberry, who graded at 65.5 in just 19 offensive snaps against the Eagles in Week 2. Only Darrisaw, 65.4, and guard Ezra Cleveland, 63.7, graded above 60 among starters in the first two weeks of the season.

Minnesota has salary cap space to work with — more than $12 million — to make upgrades before Week 3.

Vikings Must Upgrade Running Game

While quarterback Kirk Cousins has slung it all over the field for 708 yards and six touchdowns, the running game has turned dormant, which partially falls on the offensive line. The Vikings have 26 rushing attempts for 69 yards, a 2.7 yards per carry average, in two games, which will likely leave them at the bottom of the league after Week 2.

“To me, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching it. It’s on me. We’ve got to go back to work and find ways to run the football. Whatever personnel groupings we feel like gives us an advantage,” O’Connell said.

“We’ve got to get more connectedness up front. We’ve got to be able to attack certain fronts when looks present themselves, and just continue to hunt to be efficient because it’s not a good formula,” O’Connell explained, “especially when you’re putting the ball on the ground, but it’s not a good formula to play like that when, as confident as I am in our pass game, it’s just not going to sustain.”

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