The Vikings will have their full roster at training camp on Tuesday. We're previewing camp with a look at each position group. Today: Offensive line.
Tackles: Brian O'Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel, Vederian Lowe, Timon Parris
Guards: Ezra Cleveland, Jesse Davis, Chris Reed, Ed Ingram, Wyatt Davis, Kyle Hinton
Centers: Garrett Bradbury, Austin Schlottmann, Josh Sokol
In: Davis (free agent), Reed (free agent), Ingram (second-round pick), Lowe (sixth-round pick), Schlottmann (free agent), Sokol (free agent)
Out: Rashod Hill (free agent), Mason Cole (signed with Steelers), Dakota Dozier (signed with Bears)
When new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was first asked about the state of the team's offensive line this offseason, he focused on the positive. "Thankful that you have two really good tackles," he said. "As for the interior, we love Ezra." That was before the Vikings front office retooled the annual competition at guard in free agency, signing veterans Davis and Reed while adding Ingram in the draft's second round out of LSU. The interior line remains the big question mark. New management chose to reinforce the guard options next to struggling center Garrett Bradbury instead of replacing him. O'Neill, who turns 27 in September, remains the group's leader and a key mentor for Darrisaw as the 2021 first-round pick enters his second season.
Right guard. As the guard carousel turns at TCO Performance Center, the Vikings are all but certain to start an 18th different guard since 2016. Last year's starter, Udoh, spent much of the spring at his old position at tackle, where he could help replace Hill as the swing option. Replacing Udoh at right guard could be either Davis, who started 72 games at guard and tackle for the Dolphins, or Reed, who has 29 career starts for four teams. Ingram is also in the mix, but he worked with the second-team offense throughout the spring offseason program.
Player to Watch
Bradbury. To no one's surprise, the Vikings declined an expensive fifth-year option in Bradbury's contract this spring. That means the 2019 first-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie deal with much to prove. In June, Bradbury lauded a more cohesive environment among the health, strength and nutrition staffs, which he's leaning on to help transform his body and form a sturdier anchor in front of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Bradbury said he's adding weight to get back above 300 pounds. He is also said to be in a better place mentally after admitting a complacency last season that came before a brief benching. His primary backup could be Reed, who worked at guard and center this spring.
One Big Question
Will Kevin O'Connell's offense further help the line? The proliferation of play-action bootlegs in the Kubiak-driven Vikings offense boosted a beleaguered line. Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell arrived saying the new playbook can do even more to put offensive linemen in advantageous spots. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah agreed this spring, saying O'Connell's Vikings "won't be as offensive-line dependent as maybe some other teams," pointing to the Rams-centric misdirection, quick throws and throwing on early downs to stay out of long third downs. O'Connell also brought up changes for Bradbury: "It's just been a matter of finding the right fit for him and the right system," the coach said. "And what are you asking him to do snap in and snap out that gives him the best possible chance for success?"