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Lunchbreak: ESPN’s Graziano Says Offensive Line, Run Game Keys for Vikings

No NFL team has a perfect roster.

General managers and scouting departments are always scanning the waiver wire and looking to see if any talent can be added.

With the NFL season set to start three weeks from Thursday, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com recently looked at the roster of playoff contenders around the league and identified an area that will be worth watching in 2019.

Graziano, who covered part of Verizon Vikings Training Camp in-person, said Minnesota’s offensive line will play a key role in how far the Vikings go.

Graziano wrote:

The Vikings did some work to fix the offensive line this offseason, drafting center Garrett Bradbury in the first round, moving Pat Elflein to guard and signing guard Josh Kline. They like right tackle Brian O’Neill, who was their second-round pick in 2018, and think the way the interior of their line is constructed will help the kind of offense they want to run.

The sense I got from talking to Vikings coaches while at their camp was that, if they can commit to the run the way they want to, they can make their current line work. But, as one person there said to me, “If we have to drop back 40 times a game, it’s probably not going to be in our best interest.”

Elflein, Bradbury and Klein currently make up the starting interior of the Vikings offensive line, while Riley Reiff is the left tackle. O’Neill is the starter at right tackle but he has missed recent practices. Rashod Hill started in place of O’Neill last week at New Orleans.

A ‘Super’ early prediction

It’s mid-August, a time when there is an abundance of hope and expectations inside every NFL franchise.

The reality, however, is that barely one-third of the 32 teams across the league will make the postseason, with only two of them reaching Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports believes the Vikings will be one of those teams, as he predicted Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s squad to represent the NFC in the title game.

Dajani wrote:

This is a team that should have been a Super Bowl contender last year, so why can’t Vikings fans expect it this season? You could look at 2018 as a year that signaled the downswing of Minnesota as a franchise — a club that got close but will never seemingly have the firepower to actually win anything. But I don’t see it that way at all.

People are going to be quick to forget the 2018 season ever happened if the Vikings do something special this upcoming year. I think there were some growing pains with Cousins in this new system and with his new teammates, and things just did not always click for whatever reason. Now that Cousins has some experience with how to dictate this offense, we should expect the Vikings to be good enough to set themselves up to make a postseason run.

View images from the Vikings training camp practice on August 13 at TCO Performance Center.

Minnesota had high expectations entering the 2018 season but struggled with inconsistent play on the way to an 8-7-1 season that did not include a playoff berth.

Dajani’s opinion was one of five predictions he made for Minnesota in 2019. He also wrote that he believes Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is both primed for big season ahead.

Dajani wrote:

While Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are all excellent weapons, Cousins is going to be the one who makes this offense go.

In his second full season as a Viking … I expect Cousins to have a huge season. He finished No. 10 overall in passing yards, and I expect him to rocket up the charts into the top five. This Vikings offense has some weapons in the passing game, and they are going to take advantage of them.

Dajani also projected strong seasons for running back Dalvin Cook, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Mike Hughes.

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