The Minnesota Vikings‘ hopes for a rookie lineman to claim a starting spot were realized in the preseason — which sent off a veteran addition from the offseason.
Davis’ departure comes after he lost a competition for the starting right guard spot to second-round rookie Ed Ingram out of LSU. Former Indianapolis Colts guard Chris Reed, acquired in the offseason, will be the primary backup to both the left and right guard spots on the offensive front.
With Ingram’s emergence, the Vikings’ starting offensive line is made entirely of first- or second-round draft picks by Minnesota.
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Vikings O-Line Earns Best Ranking In 5 Years
Pro Football Focus (PFF) lead draft analyst Mike Renner published his preseason offensive line rankings on June 13 and ranked the Vikings 19th in the league — the highest preseason ranking Minnesota has had since ranking 14th ahead of the 2017 season.
Renner projected Ingram to win the starting job in his article, placing the Vikings unit in the middle of the high-end potential tier of offensive lines that ranked between 13th and 24th.
While Ingram is the newest addition to the line, Renner saw the biggest boon to the unit being left tackle Christian Darrisaw, entering his second season in the league after being selected 23rd overall in the 2021 draft.
“This could sneakily be the best offensive line of quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ Vikings career,” Renner wrote. “Much of that, though, comes down to the development of the team’s 2021 first-round pick, Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw earned a 71.9 overall grade on 652 snaps last season and got stronger as the campaign wore on.”
Darrisaw, who underwent groin surgery at the start of the 2021 season, hit a learning curve his rookie year but broke out later his rookie campaign, earning his first start in Week 7.
“Darrisaw got off to a late start to his rookie year due to a preseason injury. He ended up playing in 11 games and posted a 71.8 PFF grade over that span, ranking 20th of 39 qualifying left tackles,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote at the regular season’s conclusion in January. “The first-round pick’s run-blocking stood out in particular — Darrisaw posted a 77.2 grade in that facet. Not only is that the sixth-best among left tackles for the 2021 season, but it’s also the fourth-best by a rookie at the position in the last decade. Needless to say, the future looks promising for the Virginia Tech product.”
Fully healthy, Darrisaw is poised for a breakout season, earning comparisons to future Hall of Famer Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers.
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“I like what I’ve seen from him so far,” Hunter said in an August 8 press conference. “He took a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2. Definitely not the same player he was last year. He’s above and beyond what we’ve seen from practice. That’s big time right there because…the potential for him, it’s limitless. He’s going to keep improving as a player.”
Darrisaw is just the latest development of a young offensive line unit that is finding its way. Brian O’Neill, a 2018 second-round pick, is one of the league’s premier right tackles, while 2020 second-round pick in left guard Ezra Cleveland has shown consistently competent guard play, allowing just one sack last season despite inconsistency from the rest of the offensive interior.
Garrett Bradbury, selected 18th overall in the 2019 draft, has struggled in pass protection entering the final year of his rookie contract. However, Ingram’s entrance to the starting unit may give Bradbury more support than he’s had in recent years.
Vikings Preparing for High-Profile Move?
The Vikings parting ways with Davis saved $1.5 million against the salary cap, giving Minnesota an estimated $8 million in cap space, per Spotrac.
Minnesota may instead opt to make several small signings in the coming days with a slew of free agents available following August 30’s 53-man roster deadline.