Vikings Eyeing Final Piece on Offense, ‘Have Advantage’ to Sign Vet: Insider

O'Connell, Cousins, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings watches during warmups alongside quarterback Kirk Cousins prior to a game against the Chicago Bears in January 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings are taking a look at former Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner, who would make a strong case to win a starting job in Minnesota.

“Risner is flying Monday night to Minnesota for a visit with the Vikings,” Denver’s 9NEWS’ Mike Klis reported on July 31. “The Vikings offensive line coach is Chris Kuper and assistant offensive line coach is Justin Rascati — both of whom coached Risner from 2019-2021.”

A 2019 second-round pick, Risner started all four seasons in Denver, missing just four of 66 games in that span. Risner earned his second consecutive pass-blocking grade above 70.0 by Pro Football Focus and ranked 22nd among guards in true pass sets.

Klis added that “there are three other teams who still have interest in Risner, according to a source, but the Vikings would seem to have the advantage as of Monday evening.”

 Dalton Risner Would Be an Upgrade at Guard for Vikings

Dalton Risner

Getty Dalton Risner on September 12, 2022 in Seattle.

Adding Risner to the offensive line would give the unit a significant boost to its protection when pass-blocking.

The Vikings starting guard duo of Ezra Cleveland and Ed Ingram was the leakiest in the league last season. Ingram allowed the most pressures in the NFL (63) last season but played every snap as a rookie, while Cleveland allowed the third-most pressures (55), per Pro Football Focus.

Risner, a lone bright spot on a porous Broncos offensive front, allowed just 29 pressures across 967 snaps.

To be fair, Cleveland was drafted as a left tackle coming out of college in 2020 and was highly valued for his ability as a run-blocker. That begs the question of his fit in the offense as a Rick Spielman draft pick.

Ingram, on the other hand, had his struggles but is a much better fit for the offense. Whether he can improve upon his rookie season remains to be seen.

But the Vikings would be wise to sign Risner to add competition at guard.

 Vikings Offensive Line Earning High Grades But Must Improve in the Interior

Minnesota’s offensive line has climbed many NFL rankings over this offseason with the emergence of one of the top tackle duos consisting of Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill.

ESPN’s Mike Clay ranked the Vikings offensive front the seventh-best unit in the league. However, it doesn’t add up considering Kirk Cousins took more hits than any quarterback last season.

Cousins embodied more of a playmaker mentality last season, which required him to stick in the pocket and take a hit to make the throw.

Cousins’ toughness is unquestioned. But his lack of mobility has also played a factor in him taking more hits than any quarterback over the past three seasons. He could benefit from throwing the ball out of bounds more if the play isn’t there. The Vikings also have plenty of work they could do to improve the protection on the interior.

“Minnesota’s line finished the year with an 82.8 pass-blocking efficiency, the same as the Giants at 26th in the league. They surrendered 228 total pressures including the postseason, which was the most in the league,” Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson wrote. “The Kansas City Chiefs played two extra games and still allowed 23 fewer total pressures than the Vikings as an offensive line. And the Philadelphia Eagles, arguably the best line in football, allowed 99 fewer pressures despite playing two more games.

“Christian Darrisaw emerged last season as one of the best tackles in the game, and on the other side Brian O’Neill is a quality starter, but the Vikings still have too much pressure coming up the middle and could also tweak the scheme to minimize the plays where Cousins is exposed to those big hits that cause his coaches to cringe.”

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