Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first draft class isn’t contributing how the team had hoped.
Selected in the second round, Ingram, the only rookie who won a starting role to open the season, is on pace to allow the most pressures ever recorded in a single season.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Ingram has allowed a league-high 44 pressures in 11 games and is on pace to finish with 68 pressures, the most ever in the PFF era (since 2006). He ranks 57th out of 60 qualified guards in PFF’s pass-blocking grade and has given up eight sacks, three more than the next-closest player at his position.
That’s led many pundits to question whether a change on the offensive line with five weeks left in the season is necessary to improve the team’s chances in the postseason.
Ed Ingram Named Vikings’ ‘Weakest Link,’ Suggested to Be Benched
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell listed every NFL contender’s biggest weakness with only a full month of the regular season remaining. While many of his critiques were merely broad improvements to teams’ pass rush, game management or run game, Barnwell’s case for the Vikings was a pointed criticism of Ingram.
I’m not going to put “the spotlight” or “prime-time television.” It’s easy to criticize Kirk Cousins for his lack of production in nationally televised games, but remember that he and the Vikings upset a 13-3 Saints team in New Orleans as 7.5-point underdogs during the 2019 playoffs. History is filled with quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco and Eli Manning who simply weren’t good enough to win a Super Bowl … until they won a Super Bowl.
Instead, I have to point toward the rookie right guard on Minnesota’s line. Ingram is this season’s Hakeem Adeniji as the overmatched young lineman every defensive coordinator wants to try to exploit heading into game day. The struggles of Adeniji and the rest of the Cincinnati offensive line finally sunk the Bengals in the second half of Super Bowl LVI.
Ingram has allowed seven sacks in 11 games, a remarkable number for an interior lineman. His 85.5% pass block win rate ranks 61st out of 63 qualifying guards. He is better as a run-blocker, but he is a glaring weakness for the Vikings as they close out a noncompetitive race in the NFC North.
Taking Barnwell’s critique into consideration, Inside the Vikings’ Will Ragatz pondered whether Minnesota should make a change at the guard position. The Vikings signed veteran guard Chris Reed in the offseason who was believed by the Indianapolis Colts fan base and also added former Denver Broncos center Austin Schlottman. However, it was Ingram who beat the two veterans for the starting job in the first place.
“The only other true guard options on the roster are Reed and Austin Schlottmann, although tackles Blake Brandel and Oli Udoh could play there if needed,” Ragatz wrote. “Udoh was the Vikings’ starting right guard last season and played poorly, allowing 45 pressures. In 2020, Dakota Dozier was Minnesota’s left guard and gave up 46 pressures. That puts Ingram’s 44 pressures in 11 games into a bit more context.”
Vikings Banking on Ed Ingram Reaching Ceiling Before Postseason
It hasn’t been all bad for Ingram who is a top-25 run-blocker at his position, per PFF.
The rookie is also coming off his best game to date against the New England Patriots. He allowed just one pressure and notched his fourth game without a sack against the league’s second-best pass rush. He finished with a season-high 72.8 pass-blocking grade.
Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips backed Ingram in a December 1 press conference, saying the rookie is improving.
“I just think Ed continues to ascend,” Phillips said. “I think I mentioned before, we knew that there would be a little bit of growing pains playing a rookie at right guard in the NFL with the pass rushers we’ve seen, starting off the year against Kenny Clark and Green Bay. There were going to be some times where he’s got to kind of learn the hard way, and none of us want that to happen — you wish they were all Pro Bowlers up there that have five or 10 years of experience where they’ve just seen it all, but some of that stuff was new to him.”
Minnesota is hoping the Patriots game becomes a trend and not a mirage of promise that Ingram will reach a higher level of play approaching the postseason.
“He played because we felt like he was the best player we had at that position,” Phillips said. “It wasn’t, ‘Hey, we drafted this guy, we’ve got to get him in.’ We were comfortable whoever that person would have been. … Ultimately we just felt like the ceiling was higher,” Phillips added. “Maybe he wasn’t quite as experienced, maybe he hadn’t seen it as much, but when it came to blocking a guy 1-on-1, when he had to anchor down or when he had to kind of redirect on a rush where he gets edged and he cleans the pocket and presses and creates some space for the quarterback, we just felt like he was the better option.”