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The Often Overbearing, But Otherwise Ordinary Offensive Line

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If the Vikings are able to advance past the Saints on Sunday, they could get an offensive lineman back on the roster in time for the next round of the playoffs. The Vikings announced on Wednesday that they have designated center Brett Jones to return from injured reserve. Jones went on injured reserve in mid-November after hurting his knee in practice.

Jones will be able to practice with the Vikings this week, but won’t be eligible to play until next week. 

https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/01/01/vikings-designate-brett-jones-to-return-from-injured-reserve/

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In the second round of the 2018 draft, the Minnesota Vikings a player who wasn’t considered a Day 1 starter. After all, Brian O’Neill was about 20 pounds under the average weight for a tackle and wasn’t far removed from playing tight end at Pitt. But now, less than two years removed from being viewed as a project, O’Neill has become a key weapon for the Vikings’ offense. And there’s a lot that went into how he got from Point A to Point B.

Last Sunday’s performance — which largely came against one of the NFL’s best defensive ends Cam Jordan — was the culmination of O’Neill’s growth. On 35 pass blocking snaps, he gave up just one QB hurry, zero QB hits and zero sacks. The highly-athletic lineman was also dominant in the run game, scoring the highest run blocking grade from PFF of his season (80.4 of 100).

O’Neill: “Staying calm comes with experience, it comes with practice. It comes with being there before and understanding in the past the things that have made you fail and trying not to do those. The things that you have done in the past that have been successful, you try to hone in on those.”

https://www.skornorth.com/vikings-2/2020/01/to-stop-the-best-des-brian-oneill-is-staying-calm-and-studying-on/

 

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O'Neill was fun to watch at Pitt (I think he scored 2 touchdowns as an OL)

I'm glad he's on our team and probably a long term starter for us.

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14 minutes ago, SteelKing728 said:

O'Neill was fun to watch at Pitt (I think he scored 2 touchdowns as an OL)

the article said he had some potential as a tight end.

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The only disappointing thing is that he never got a chance to score a TD as a viking

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Just now, vikesfan89 said:

The only disappointing thing is that he never got a chance to score a TD as a viking

He still has plenty of time for that to happen.  

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2 minutes ago, vikesfan89 said:

The only disappointing thing is that he never got a chance to score a TD as a viking

saving it for the Super Bowl.

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3 minutes ago, vike daddy said:

saving it for the Super Bowl.

If only Jared had been able to get there.  Well, if they do manage to get there, then O'Neill can be in the same conversation as the Fridge...but, hopefully Dalvin not in that same conversation as Walter Payton.  

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1 hour ago, SteelKing728 said:

I'm glad he's on our team and probably a long term starter for us.

At the rate he's playing they'd be EXTREMELY foolish to let him walk. He'll already be going into year 3 next season.

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How much of this starts to become a QB issue? When can we start saying that? If another early pick is used on an OL, I think the resource argument starts to go out the window and we’re either picking the wrong ones or don’t have a strong pocket passing QB.

Reiff, a 3rd, a 1st and a 2nd is a pretty meaningful investment in the OL the last three years.

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12 minutes ago, vikingsrule said:

How much of this starts to become a QB issue? When can we start saying that? If another early pick is used on an OL, I think the resource argument starts to go out the window and we’re either picking the wrong ones or don’t have a strong pocket passing QB.

Reiff, a 3rd, a 1st and a 2nd is a pretty meaningful investment in the OL the last three years.

First, a better QB always helps. The QB is the most important player on offense.  Under Spielman's watch the team has invested tremendous resources to the QB position -- three first round picks and an unheard of fully guaranteed contract for a free agent. It is easy to argue that Spielman, for whatever reason, has gotten far below average value from the resources he has invested into the QB position.

The second most important players on offense are the offensive lineman. As you astutely pointed out, like the QB position, it isn't an issue of the resources he has invested. On top of the picks he has tried trading low round picks for players such as Sirles and Easton, he has tried signing free agents like Boone, and he has looked at practice squads around the league to find players like Rashod Hill. It isn't that he isn't investing resources so much as he isn't getting reasonable value out of the investments he makes.

What matters a lot more than the resources invested in a position is the actual results achieved. Rick Spielman's results have been mind-blowingly poor with the offensive lines he has built. He has also turned out solid results when looking at other positions. There is a continual argument about whether Spielman isn't bringing in the right players or the right coaches to develop those players. The bottom line is that it looks like Rick Spielman is not going to be able to get it done with regards to the offensive line.

Sure, a better QB would help but Rick Spielman has tried at least as hard to find that guy as he has at upgrading the line itself. The results speak for themselves, year after year. After year.

There comes a time where fans have to ask themselves at what point they believe the current power structure on the team has had enough time. At what point will fans stop investing emotional energy into seeing the same problem kill great roster after great roster.

There comes a time when an owner has to ask himself how much longer he wants to keep investing all those resources into a setup that has failed for the same reason over and over again with little sign pointing towards them having the ability to fix the problem.

I don't know when that time will come for you, or when it will come for Zygi, but the time has come for me. I will continue to root for the team and hope for the best but I can't bother myself to invest the emotional energy into it that I am able to invest when I believe. It will be a large mountain to climb for the team to get me believing until a systemic change is made in the organizations leadership, which appears quite inept in an area of vital significance, fielding an offensive line that can achieve reasonable results.

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Those are certainly all valid points @Cearbhall, but I, for one, would actually like to see if they can keep the same offensive line coaching staff together for any amount of time.  Since Spielman arrived, these are the offensive line coaches:

2006 - 10: Pat Morris (zone blocking scheme)

2011 - 2015: Jeff Davidson (3 years of primarily zone blocking, 2 yrs of man blocking)

2016 - 2017: Tony Sparano (man blocking)

2018: Clancy Barone (man blocking)

2019: Rick Dennison (zone blocking)

With such a mishmash of style and coaches preferences, it's not difficult to see why he hasn't had as much success at being able to identify talent.  That doesn't necessarily excuse him completely, but the instability surely hasn't helped.  

I'd also like to point out that he has done far better drafting players with zone blocking skills than he ever did for the primarily man-blocking OL coaches.  In 2008 and 2009, he was able to draft John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt and in 2011 and 2012, he was able to draft Fusco and Kalil, while the hopes are high for Bradbury, Samia, and Udoh in this past draft.  Hopefully, that trend will continue.  

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