The Minnesota Vikings welcomed a crucial cog back to their offense on Sunday, August 13.
Offensive tackle Brian O’Neill participated in team drills over the weekend for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon during the team’s Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on January 1. He hadn’t missed a start in three years before the injury sidelined him for Minnesota’s season finale against the Chicago Bears seven days later.
O’Neill spoke to Ellis Williams and Craig Peters of Vikings.com, the team’s official website, about how it felt to step onto the practice field for the first time in nearly seven and a half months.
“I’m really excited. I’m just trying to follow the plan that they’ve got for me and starting to shake some rust off,” O’Neill said. “We’re right on schedule, right where we want to be. They’ve done a great job. We’re not there yet, but will be.”
Brian O’Neill Went Down at Worst Possible Time for Vikings After Posting Huge Year
O’Neill’s injury came at a catastrophic time for the Vikings, who hosted a home playoff game against the New York Giants over Wildcard Weekend just two weeks later. The Giants defeated the Vikings 31-24, cutting the franchise’s postseason run short after Minnesota captured the NFC North Division title for the first time since 2017.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ jersey remained relatively clean in that loss, as he suffered no sacks, though O’Neill’s absence was felt in the run game. The Vikings rushed the ball a total of just 16 times, gaining 61 yards against the Giants defense, per ESPN.
O’Neill was among the best offensive tackles in the league last season, earning an overall player grade of 82.7 from Pro Football Focus, which included a pass-blocking grade of 77.9 and a borderline elite run-blocking grade of 82.4 The website’s advanced analytics ranked O’Neill the eighth-best tackle in the NFL in 2022 out of 81 players who saw enough snaps to qualify at the position.
It was the second straight year of stellar play for O’Neill, who earned the first Pro-Bowl nod of his career in 2021 — the same season in which he inked a five-year, $92.5 million extension to remain with the Vikings.
Vikings to Rely Heavily on Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw With Questions on Interior of O-Line
O’Neill is part of one of the best duos of offensive tackles in the league alongside teammate Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw finished last year with an overall player grade of 90.4, rendering him the second-best tackle in the NFL based on PFF’s metrics.
Tackle play will be crucial to Minnesota’s success during the upcoming campaign, particularly as the inside of the offensive line continues to pose some questions marks. The biggest concern in the middle is guard Ed Ingram, who finished his rookie year near the bottom of the league at the position after starting every game, per PFF.
The Vikings have flirted this offseason with free agent guard Dalton Risner and hosted a visit with the former Denver Broncos offensive lineman on August 1, though no deal had been struck as of Sunday.