See more of the story

There's a new starter along the Vikings offensive line, and he's hard to miss.

Blake Brandel is entering his fifth season in Minnesota, but his first as a starter at left guard after being promoted into the void left when the front office opted to not re-sign Dalton Risner. Coaches turned to Brandel, a former 2020 sixth-round pick who has mostly been a reserve. He's also a former tackle with one year under his belt at guard.

Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said Brandel has come through for the Vikings while playing in the bulk of seven games (five at left tackle, two at right guard) the last two years. He's also the biggest blocker — listed 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds — for an offensive line that needs to better open running lanes.

"I feel like he gets bigger every time I see him," Phillips said. "He's a massive man on the inside in there, but he's in great shape. He's always been very coachable."

"It's been very encouraging so far with him stepping in that starting spot," he added. "I think it'll only grow from there. The more experience, the more reps he gets, he's been a guy that anytime he's been put in a game at several positions has come through for us. We haven't forgotten that, and I think he's earned this opportunity."

The Vikings' decision to promote Brandel provides continuity, despite the fact that he's penciled in as the franchise's 14th different starting guard over the last 10 seasons. This will be his fifth season in Minnesota and with center Garrett Bradbury, who has been Brandel's offseason workout partner for the last few years.

"There's been a lot of continuity between the group," Brandel said, "and it's just a great group of guys, which is another reason I love being back. Love everyone in that room and where we're at."

Added Bradbury: "I think there was an emphasis from the front office to keep the offense together this offseason."

He said he was thrilled to see Brandel re-sign with the Vikings in March, inking a three-year deal worth up to $9.5 million. The contract was a stronger commitment from the Vikings, since the team could have tendered him as a restricted free agent at a non-guaranteed salary. He's instead guaranteed $3.1 million this season with a chance to earn more in the next two years.

Brandel took every first-team rep at left guard during the Vikings' first week of full-team spring practices, known as organized team activities (OTAs).

"I'm so comfortable with him in there," Bradbury said. "He's a bigger body, he knows the offense really well and I've played with him before. … I'm excited to see what he can do with a full season, because … it's different when you show up Day 1 of OTAs, training camp and you're the guy."

Bradbury recalled the Vikings' 2022 victory at Buffalo, where receiver Justin Jefferson made the one-handed "Catch of the Year." A less recalled part of that game was left tackle Christian Darrisaw exiting with a concussion. His replacement, Brandel, allowed just two QB hurries while protecting for 25 reps against the likes of then-Bills edge rusher Von Miller, according to Pro Football Focus.

"It was like we didn't have to worry," Bradbury said. "We didn't have to slide away from him, didn't have to protect him. Knew he could get the job done."

Entering his first year as a starter, Brandel said he feels a tailwind in the form of an altered workout regimen this offseason. Their typical workout group — including former Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland, who was traded to the Jaguars last year — changed gyms to a smaller startup called Continuum High Performance. Instead of participating in 20-player groupings, Bradbury, Brandel and Cleveland worked with owner and trainer Andrew Hauser.

"It came down to more attention," Brandel said. "Less a printed workout sheet ... and more kind of individualized workouts."

"I feel stronger than I've ever been and feel healthier, too," he added, "so we took a step with our offseason training."

After practicing mostly right guard last season, Brandel said he's comfortable back on the left side, where he started 48 straight games at left tackle for Oregon State from 2016 to 2019.

Now he's eyeing another step as an NFL starter.

"Nothing in this league is given," Brandel said, "but that's what I'm working toward."