The Minnesota Vikings had nearly all the pieces of a Super Bowl-worthy team under coach Mike Zimmer.
A defense that was brimming with Pro Bowl talent at every position. An offense with Pro Bowl weapons at wide receiver, tight end and running back. Kirk Cousins even earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 and is becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in franchise history, statistically speaking.
The one piece of the team that has consistently underperformed remains the offensive line, failing to send one entrant to the Pro Bowl since Matt Kalil’s rookie year in 2012.
The Vikings’ Super Bowl window, perceived to be open after the 2017 postseason has closed significantly in the Year 1 reboot of Zimmer’s defense. While there is still plenty of talent that could make a run in the postseason in 2021, the offensive line continues to be a point of concern, posting the third-lowest pass-block grade this season by Pro Football Focus.
The Vikings line had its flashes this season, however, one former lineman of the team still sees the situation as “really bad.”
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Former Vikings Lineman: ‘The Whole OL Plays Like S***. They Look Completely Unprepared’
Vikings Territory’s Joe Johnson, who co-hosts a podcast with former Vikings coach and offensive line specialist Mike Tice, interviewed several former Vikings offensive linemen to gain insight into what could be wrong with the unit.
One lineman gave a damning review of how the group has been managed.
“The reason that I asked about the OL coach is because the whole OL plays like s***,” he said, per Johnson. “They look completely unprepared to play to me. It’s bad right now dude. Really bad. I’m sure there’s plenty of talent but it’s not showing up.”
He added: “Anyone that blames Kirk for what is going on is out of their mind. He had an exceptional OL when they were healthy in Washington, aside from Spencer Long, and the OL there was run by a technician in Bill Callahan. When you watched the OL there things were intentional, every single guy on the Vikings OL plays with different technique. Sometimes a certain guy will do a certain thing different to suit his abilities/skill set but here it looks like the Vikings OL doesn’t even have a coach. It looks like they get handed a piece of paper and someone says, go ahead and figure it out on your own.”
Lineman Weighs in on Garrett Bradbury
What motivated Johnson to reach out to several former linemen was the enigmatic play of center Garrett Bradbury. The defensive interior was a weak point this season while tackles Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill played exceptionally well. Bradbury didn’t get much help with the spottiness of his guard play that came from Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier, Dru Samia and rookie Ezra Cleveland.
“I have no reason to think Bradbury will necessarily be a bust but he is playing very poorly right now. Bad footwork, no anchor in pass pro, off-balance constantly. The most shocking thing is the lack of awareness. Looks lost on the field a lot,” the lineman told Johnson. “When I say bad footwork too I mean it’s loose. He can move his feet but he’s taking massive steps on reach blocks and play-action sets and making it so he literally can’t take a second step. Showed up over and over again against Tampa.”
Minnesota clearly has a problem with developing talent at the position, however, the offensive line is often not so much the individual, but the sum of its parts.
The last drafted Vikings offensive lineman to make multiple Pro Bowls was Matt Birk, who was drafted in 1998 and made seven Pro Bowls in eight seasons in the prime of his career. He excelled with competent lineman alongside him in Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson under Tice.
Another guard has been a highly-touted need for the cap-strapped Vikings to address in the draft, however, waiting for the development of another rookie install to the line may not provide enough encouragement to turn around the struggles on the line.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.