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2023 Vikings Position Recap: Offensive Line


EAGAN, Minn. — No position group in football relies on continuity more than offensive line.

The 2023 iteration of the Minnesota Vikings was supposed to center around continuity up front. Minnesota returned projected starters (from left to right) tackle Christian Darrisaw, guard Ezra Cleveland, center Garrett Bradbury, guard Ed Ingram, and tackle Brian O'Neill.

Instead, familiarity lasted seven plays. Bradbury was injured on Minnesota's seventh offensive snap of Week 1 against the Buccaneers and replaced by backup center Austin Schlottmann. Bradbury and Darrisaw were out the following week, forcing the Vikings to use their second of an eventual eight different starting offensive line combinations.

Injuries, free agent signings, and a trade contributed to the offensive line's lack of continuity. But Offensive Line Coach Chris Kuper and Assistant Offensive Line Coach Rascati reunited with guard Dalton Risner when Minnesota signed the former Denver Bronco in September. Kuper, who also played guard for the Broncos, and Rascati coached Risner for multiple seasons in Denver before Kuper and Rascati were hired by Minnesota in 2022.

Risner emerged as a reliable starter and vocal addition for the offensive line. .

Darrisaw (982 snaps) and Ingram (958 snaps) were first and second in offensive snaps played, respectively.

O'Neill endured a late-season ankle injury yet remained one of the best right tackles in football. ESPN's Bill Barnwell named O'Neill his second-team All-Pro right tackle behind Philadelphia's Lane Johnson.

View the best photos of Vikings offensive line during the 2023 season.

Notable Numbers

47 – sacks allowed

The Vikings used 11 different offensive line combinations (eight starting and three others because of in-game injuries), causing inconsistent quarterback protection. Forty-seven allowed sacks tied for 10th most in the NFL this season.

7.45% – sack percentage allowed

Though Minnesota ranked fourth in pass attempts with 631 (five fewer than the top-ranked Commanders), the Vikings sack percentage ranked 19th.

12 – Vikings offensive line's ranking by Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus graded Darrisaw and O'Neill as two of the best tackles in the league.

Regular-Season Statistics


The Highest High

In Week 7, Risner made his Vikings starting debut at left guard and helped stonewall a fierce 49ers defensive line at U.S Bank Stadium during Monday Night Football. Minnesota defeated San Francisco 22-17 behind a season-high 378 passing yards from quarterback Kirk Cousins, marking the second victory of an eventual five-game winning streak.

Cousins wasn't sacked on 45 dropbacks and threw two touchdowns against one of the league's top defenses.

Darrisaw limited All-Pro edge rusher Nick Bosa to just one quarterback hit. Defensive linemen Javon Hargrave, a Pro Bowl selection, and Arik Armstead notched just four combined pressures despite moving around the formation.

"They knew the challenge," O'Connell said. "Listen, Nick Bosa is a phenomenal, phenomenal player, and you have to be locked in on every single snap all night long, regardless of circumstance. But they also have Armstead and Hargrave and they have other players that continuously come at you. If you're not locked in in one moment, it can be catastrophically bad. Tackles have been really, really good all year for us, but to answer the bell like they did tonight, can't say enough about CD and Brian O'Neill for what they mean to this team."

Risner never relinquished his post, starting the next 10 games to end the season. However, this five-man combination of Vikings protectors only started five more games together.

The Lowest Low

The Vikings lineup of Darrisaw, Risner, Bradbury Ingram, and O'Neill started just one December game together. Ingram missed Week 14 at the Raiders with a shoulder injury. Then O'Neill was out in Weeks 15 and 16 with an ankle injury.

But all five started on New Year's Eve in Week 17 for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Packers. What began as a hopeful evening quickly snowballed into a forgettable year's end.

Minnesota generated a season-low 211 yards – after starting rookie quarterback Jaren Hall and turning to Nick Mullens at halftime – and lost 33-10. The Packers defense combined for 14 hits and four sacks of Vikings quarterbacks.

Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith won a 1-on-1 against Darrisaw and forced a strip-sack for Green Bay to recover the ball with 26 seconds remaining in the first half. Green Bay scored a 25-yard touchdown three plays later and increased its lead to 23-3.

Each starting Vikings offensive lineman allowed at least three pressures and two hurries. Despite playing with an aggravated ankle injury, O'Neill allowed a team-low three pressures and no sacks. He later revealed he played all 53 offensive snaps on a fractured ankle.

"Objectively, it was probably the most pain I've been in in my life," O'Neill said. "But it was a do or die game. If it was possible for me to do the job, I'm going to be out there. We got another image on it, and the team orthos were just saying, 'There's no way. You shouldn't try this again."


2 Pressing Questions for 2024

  1. Will Dalton Risner return?

After signing a one-year deal as a free agent in September, Risner played 15 games and started 11.His contract will expire in March when he enters free agency.

The Vikings have more than 20 pending free agents entering this offseason. It's unclear whether the team will re-sign Risner. But O'Neill hopes they do.

"I'd love for him to be back and to play again with him," O'Neill said. "He's a special guy, in a great way. It was a breath of fresh air, him coming in. He was just so eager and happy and hungry to have an opportunity. He came in ready to roll with that much energy and enthusiasm. It was contagious. We definitely felt that, and he made an impact in our room."

  1. Can continuity finally occur next season?

If Risner re-signs, then Minnesota should return its projected starting line combination of Darrisaw, Risner, Bradbury, Ingram and O'Neill.

The Vikings offensive line demonstrated its potential when firing on all cylinders against the 49ers. There were other high points as well. Minnesota averaged more than five yards per carry and gained at least 130 rushing yards in Weeks 3 and 4. In Week 15, running back Ty Chandler gained a career-high 132 rushing yards in his first NFL start.

Chandler was the team's first and lone 100-yard single-game rusher of the season.