For as frequently as he's characterized as being part of a new wave of young, player-friendly NFL head coaches, Kevin O'Connell has shown in 19 months on the job he's not afraid to make quick changes.
During O'Connell's first training camp last year, the Vikings cut seven members of Rick Spielman's 11-player 2021 draft class. O'Connell fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after one season on the job. The Vikings have already cut or traded two members of their 2022 draft class. On Sunday, just three members of the 10-player group (Ed Ingram, Akayleb Evans and Ty Chandler) played a snap from scrimmage; the Vikings' first, third and fourth picks in that draft did not.
It's not unreasonable, then, to expect the Vikings could shuffle their lineup after an 0-3 start, particularly if they see last week's two veteran pickups (Dalton Risner and Cam Akers) as potential solutions to a pair of their biggest problems.
Guard Ed Ingram allowed six pressures on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, and was flagged twice for holding. The second-year guard had a strong day as a run blocker, applying key blocks on Alexander Mattison runs of eight and seven yards, but his struggles in pass protection were apparent again on a day where the Chargers hit Kirk Cousins 13 times while blitzing on just 16 plays. Risner, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal, said he practiced at both left guard and right guard last week. If the Vikings deem it necessary to change their offensive line, Risner could be in the lineup soon.
O'Connell said last week that Akers likely wouldn't play until the Panthers game while he got up to speed on the offense, and the Vikings ran the ball effectively on Sunday, with Mattison carrying 20 times for 93 yards and Ty Chandler adding 27 yards on three carries. But Mattison, who fumbled against the Eagles in Week 2, narrowly escaped losing another fumble on Sunday, when officials ruled his forward progress had been stopped before Alohi Gilman stripped him near the Chargers' goal line and upheld the call against Brandon Staley's challenge. Mattison also lost the ball at the end of a 14-yard gain on the final play of the third quarter, though he was ruled down by contact.
On Monday, O'Connell didn't mince words when discussing the fact the Vikings have lost seven fumbles through three games. "That's definitely what we're going to fix one way or another," he said. "Either guys are going to do it, or we're going to have to put other guys in the game that have ball security."
An 0-3 start shouldn't leave people in an NFL organization feeling comfortable, and the Vikings haven't been reluctant to use job changes as a means to fix things that aren't working during O'Connell's time with General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. If the same problems persist in Week 4, there could be shakeups in the lineup.