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'Battler' Josh Kline Helping Set the Tone for Vikings O-Line

EAGAN, Minn. – Brian O'Neill is pretty grateful for his left-hand man.

The Vikings 2018 second-round draft pick started 11 of the 15 games he played as a rookie last season and has retained that right tackle spot through the team's spring program and training camp.

O'Neill credits the guys around him for helping him succeed as a young player.

Of the linemen projected to be the Vikings starting five, only one is a fresh face this season: right guard Josh Kline, who signed with Minnesota during free agency.

Kline is new to the Vikings but brings with him six seasons of NFL experience, including 46 straight starts most recently with the Tennessee Titans, and has shared that know-how with O'Neill as he preps for his second season.

"What he kind of said to me the other day was, 'Not too high, not too low, just keep going steady.' Just simple things like that," O'Neill told Twin Cities media members on Sunday. "He's seen everything you can – well, not everything, but more than I've seen. … He's played a ton more ball than I have, so just any time there's any uncertainty, he kind of knows – he's been there, done that – and he knows how to help me through it.

"He's a beast. I mean, he goes out there and does every rep, every individual [drill]," O'Neill continued. "I can't say enough positive things about him, and I think it's really going to help me playing next to him."

View photos of the Vikings during training camp practice at TCO Performance Center on July 29.

Six seasons or not, Kline is always working to get better. Following Monday's practice, he was one of the last players to leave the field.

O'Neill said that playing to the right of Kline is "awesome" and explained that Kline is a man of few words, but he makes his words – and his actions – count when on the field.

"At first, he didn't talk at all," O'Neill said with a chuckle. "In the locker room he's kind of a quiet guy, but when we're out here he's talking, there's no lack of communication.

"You can tell he's played a lot of football, and he's played a lot of good football, and there's a reason they brought him here. He's a hell of a player," O'Neill continued. "I love playing next to a guy like that, just because there's no thinking. If there's any gray area for me, he makes me right. I appreciate him and all he does, and I'll just keep trying to build that chemistry."

When O'Neill's quote – "there's no thinking" – was relayed to Kline, he thought a moment before responding.

He agreed that the statement was a compliment for someone in his position.

"As offensive linemen, we just pride ourselves on trying to be smart because there's a lot of stuff out there, the defense gives you a lot of looks and everything, and you've got to be prepared for anything," Kline said. "You always have to be smart and tough and all that good stuff, but that's what they're building here, and that's the type of guys they have."

Kline and his comrades on the line are working under Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who is entering his first full season in the role.

Stefanski also spoke highly of Kline, the way he's transitioned to a new team and how he suits not only the Vikings offensive scheme but also the culture of Minnesota's offensive line.

"Josh is doing a nice job. I think [Head Coach Mike Zimmer] the other day called him a battler, and I think that is a great term," Stefanski said. "He has been on successful teams, and I appreciate having him out here. We have talked a lot over the course of having him in the building, and there are certain things he has seen over his time."

Stefanski said that Kline helps "set the tone" for the position group. And it doesn't hurt that he spent the first three seasons of his career in New England, during which he earned a Super Bowl ring.

"It means a lot [that he has that experience]; that is what we are trying to do," Stefanski said. "He has [a ring], so I am all ears when he's talking."