News | Minnesota Vikings –

Camp Rewind: Vikings O-Line Takes Shape, Develops Cohesion

EAGAN, Minn. — We've officially reached September, which means the countdown is on to the Week 1 Border Battle between the Vikings and Packers.

Minnesota has been hard at work in recent weeks at Verizon Vikings Training Camp, as players looked to solidify starting roles and carve out playing time for themselves.

And while they are still practicing this week, those sessions are now closed to the media at the start of team drills.

So we're taking a look at where four key positions are at after being able to watch 13 practices, including one at U.S. Bank Stadium.

We started our Camp Rewind series with a recap of cornerbacks, and then looked at the wide receivers, but we'll continue with a deep dive on the Vikings offensive line.

Pre-camp chatter

As with seemingly every offseason and the start of training camp, there was plenty of focus on the Vikings offensive line.

Yes, Minnesota returned four of five starters from a season ago in Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury and Brian O'Neill. But would there still be a shake up along the line, with Reiff possibly switching from tackle to guard?

That question arose after the Vikings drafted second-rounder Ezra Cleveland, who had been a stalwart left tackle at Boise State.

Furthermore, how would second-year players Dru Samia and Oli Udoh look after essentially having redshirt seasons in 2019?

The Vikings also returned a handful of veterans in Dakota Dozier, Aviante Collins, Rashod Hill and Brett Jones.

In short, there was plenty to be sorted out as the offseason came to an end.

Where are they now?

As it appears now, the Vikings will go with the four starters who returned from a season ago, but one of them will be in a new spot.

Reiff and O'Neill will man the tackle positions, while Bradbury is back at center for his second season in the league.

Elflein, meanwhile, has moved from left guard to right guard, a position where he played 25 games at Ohio State and helped the Buckeyes win a national title.

"I think he's really done a good job," said Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison. "Like everything, it's a little bit of an adjustment with footwork, but he's done a good job and has worked really well. He's really improved the last couple weeks.

"The first couple days, he had some issues that we had to work on," Dennison added. "One thing about Pat and the rest of the guys, they really take coaching. Tell them what you need them to do, and they'll work hard at it."

There was one position battle for a starting spot, as Dozier and Collins rotated reps at left guard for the majority of practices open to the media. When linemen were out and the Vikings were forced to shuffle players around, it was Dozier who took the first-team reps, an indication he could be the starter in 2020.

Dennison had high praise for Dozier, and noted how he has seen the lineman improve over their past two seasons together (Dozier and Dennison were with the Jets in 2018).

"I know he knows what he's doing. He understands the technique. Obviously, the assignments," Dennison said. "I think his confidence has risen. I think he feels very comfortable. He's come in and he always plays hard, but he's played with a different level of confidence.

"I think he's really solidified and done a very good job of working with the guys," Dennison added. "He knows it's a communication issue – you've got to be comfortable with the guys next to you and understand where they're going to be as opposed to where you are."

If those are indeed the starting five, Minnesota will also boast plenty of depth behind them.

Hill and Udoh are strong backup options at tackle, while Collins and Cleveland can presumably play guard or tackle. Jones and Samia have fared well on the interior.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak is a big fan of how the line has taken shape over the past few weeks.

"I think we've gotten deeper as a group," Kubiak said, "and that will show throughout the year."

Standout player

The Vikings have had plenty of impressive performances from their linemen in camp, as Bradbury, O'Neill and Jones have all stood out.

But Udoh has garnered lots of praise from teammates and coaches alike, as he seems to have made a sizable jump has he heads into Year 2.

The 2019 sixth-round pick from Elon University has exclusively played right tackle, including getting meaningful reps with the first-team offense on occasion.

"He's working at it. We're trying to get him at home at one spot right now but he could certainly develop to play both [sides]," Dennison said. "The last couple years he did some in college. He's shown some great promise and flashes. He's taken a big step also.

"He has some lulls that we're trying to iron out. I've talked to him specifically about, 'Let's not have peaks and valleys, let's have all peaks,' " Dennison added. "We know he can do it, so we're working on his confidence to make sure he's the aggressor, not the counter-puncher. Trying to get him to go because he does have all the talent in the world."

Udoh played 31 offensive snaps in 2019, which accounted for 3.03 percent of total offensive snaps. All of his snaps occurred at right tackle in Week 17 against the Bears.