The 2022 season is less than a month away and it’s time to get excited Vikings fans.
In a similar vein to how fans felt when Mike Zimmer took over for Leslie Frazier, the excitement is palpable for the beginning of the Kevin O’Connell era.
While the team prepares for the season, we are doing the same at the Vikings Wire. We will be producing previews breaking down both each position and the team as a whole.
Today, we continue with our preview series by talking about the offensive tackles.
Starter: Christian Darrisaw
Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) looks to make a block during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Every so often, you get lucky with a trade.
The Vikings traded down from 14 to 23 and picked up picks 66 (Kellen Mond) and 85 (Wyatt Davis). Both third-round picks got waived on Tuesday and the Vikings still ended up with the best player in the deal. How can you not consider that a win?
Darrisaw ended up missing the start of the 2021 season recovering from a second core muscle surgery. Once he came back, Darrisaw felt more comfortable as the season went on.
His skillset has drawn comparisons to All-Pro San Francisco 49ers LT Trent Williams, mainly due to their size, frame and athleticism. The two spent time together during joint practices and have forged a friendship.
If Darrisaw puts it together this season and continues on that trend, the Vikings will have their first pair of bookend tackles since Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt.
Starter: Brian O'Neill
Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Spielman and the Vikings caught a lot of heat with the selection of O’Neill at pick 62 in the 2018 NFL draft. Analysts thought he was just taking an offensive lineman to take one because of the lineman run in the second round.
After replacing Rashod Hill during the week two game at Green Bay, those talks slowly disappeared.
O’Neill is everything you want from an athletic offensive lineman. He has the height and reach to succeed along with having just enough strength to not become a turnstile. His success early helped him grow much faster than anticipated, especially since he was considered a project.
Coming out of Pitt, O’Neill was a left tackle for only two seasons, as he was a tight end before that. He blossomed quickly and has become one of the games top right tackles.
His future looks to be as bright as his past as been. Injuries have mostly avoided the fifth-year tackle and he continues to play well despite having a poor right guard next to him the entire time. If Ed Ingram plays well, O’Neill could have his best season yet not have to worry about what is going on next to him.
Backup: Blake Brandel
Minnesota Vikings tackle Blake Brandel stretches during the NFL football team’s training camp Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Eagan, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The former sixth-round pick is one of the few late-round Spielman picks that made the final 53-man roster.
Out of Oregon State, Brandel was a full-time left tackle for the Beavers. While in college, he was a stalwart player but there were issues athletically. He got torched by the Ohio State Buckeyes when the two schools met in 2019. That issue has followed Brandel to the NFL but the positives he carries with him is why he made the final 53-man roster.
He is a technically sound lineman with the flexibility to play both guard and tackle spots. That is the key to sticking around as a backup offensive lineman and Brandel will be a key reserve for the Vikings.
Backup: Oli Udoh
Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Oli Udoh (74) against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
After starting the 2021 season as the starting right guard, Udoh was firmly on the roster bubble this season. He struggled as the season went on, exposing his height as a leverage weakness.
What Udoh does bring to the table is both flexibility and high-end athleticism for his size. That gives him an edge over a lot of players. However, his leverage issues and lack of foot quickness allow players to beat him with speed-to-power moves.
His upside athletically along with position flexibility gave him the edge over Jesse Davis, sparking a trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Backup: Vederian Lowe
Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois offensive lineman Vederian Lowe (OL29) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Lowe was perhaps the biggest surprise on the final 53-man roster. The sixth-round pick out of Illinois, he struggled in all three preseason games across the offensive line.
What ended up keeping him over others is two fold. One, he was an Adofo-Mensah draft pick and the upside is wild. His size at 6’6″ and over 36″ arms are tools that you simply cannot teach.
Keeping Lowe was a big statement in Adofo-Mensah believing in his process and putting his stamp on this franchise.