The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a lackluster season in 2018. They finished 8-7-1 after a trip to the NFC Championship game the season before.
The Vikings added Kirk Cousins to the tune of $84 million guaranteed. He was supposed to be the missing link on a championship ready team. That was not the case last season but, in 2019, Minnesota will try to get to that level.
With training camp right around the corner, the Vikings are starting to look more in-depth at their team. Cousins threw 30 touchdowns last season. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs both eclipsed 100 catches, 1,000 yards, and scored nine touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph is still a force at tight end while Dalvin Cook will enter the season healthy.
On the defensive side of the ball, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes will look to get back to their old ways. The Vikings’ defense has been one of the best in the league, and that will remain the same heading into next season.
So, what is the biggest problem with the Vikings heading into training camp? The offensive line.
The offensive line in Minnesota was ranked as the 23rd best in the league in 2018. Cousins was sacked 40 times last season, and the running game could never get going. Cousins received a lot of the blame because of his lucrative contract. The fact remains, it is hard to play quarterback when the offensive line is struggling.
Heading into free agency and the draft, the Vikings knew that they had to strengthen up their offensive line if they wanted to compete for a Super Bowl.
2019 Offensive Line
The Vikings were 30th in the league in rushing last season. They averaged 93.3 rushing yards per game and scored just nine touchdowns on the ground.
This is not a recipe for success. Cousins is strong in the play-action game, but that is hard to do without a semblance of a rushing attack. The offensive line in 2019 will have to sure up to give the offense more options.
During OTA’s, the Vikings revealed their new-look offensive line. Riley Reiff remained at the left tackle position, where he will stay if he is healthy. Pat Elflein was at left guard. These will be the players responsible for protecting Cousins’ blindside. The Vikings signed Josh Kline in the offseason. He will be slotted at the right guard position. Brian O’Neill and Rashod Hill will platoon at the right tackle spot.
Aside from left tackle, the center is the most important player on the offensive line. The Vikings drafted Garrett Bradbury with the 18th pick of this year’s draft. The NC State product will come in and start immediately.
In terms of need, Bradbury might have been the best pick in the draft. Bradbury was scouted as a player who is extremely athletic and has fast hands.
He was praised for being able to block in the run game or the pass game.
The NFC North had a tough season in 2018. They only got one team in the postseason, and it was not the one that was expected. The Chicago Bears ran away with the division at 12-4.
The Vikings finished second, followed by the Green Bay Packers. The Bears were one year ahead of expectations, and they will not be going anywhere in 2019. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are always dangerous.
Minnesota will have their hands full if they want to come out of the NFC North. This is a division that could have three teams make the playoffs in 2019.
On paper, the Vikings might have the best team with the best coach. Matt LaFleur is entering his first season as a head coach in the NFL. Matt Nagy took over at the helm for the Bears before last season and had a magical run before a Cody Parkey missed field goal. Neither can be put above Mike Zimmer at the moment.
The Vikings were well aware of their need at offensive line heading into the offseason. They have made the necessary moves to try and sure up the position, however, no one knows how it will all pan out. The offensive line is still the biggest question mark for the Vikings heading into camp.
If they have a strong unit up front, the sky is the limit for Minnesota.