The Vikings begin training camp next week, with their first full-squad practice scheduled for July 28. Between now and then, we're previewing camp with a look at each position group. Today: offensive line.
Tackles: Brian O'Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Rashod Hill, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel, Evin Ksiezarczyk
Guards: Ezra Cleveland, Dakota Dozier, Wyatt Davis, Dru Samia, Kyle Hinton, Zack Bailey
Centers: Garrett Bradbury, Mason Cole, Cohl Cabral
In: Darrisaw (first-round pick), Davis (third-round pick), Cole (trade), Ksiezarczyk (free agent), Cabral (waivers)
Out: LT Riley Reiff (cut), C Brett Jones (free agent)
Four of five starters return, but competition has been stoked for possibly two new starters on the offensive line. Darrisaw, the 23rd overall pick, replaces Reiff, who was released in March to free up nearly $12 million in salary cap space. Third-round guard Wyatt Davis is expected to compete with incumbent starter Dakota Dozier, who got nothing guaranteed in a one-year deal to return this offseason. Selecting Darrisaw cements Ezra Cleveland's place at guard, where he started on the right last year but moved to the left side this spring. It's a big year for center Garrett Bradbury, who has one more season to state his case for why the Vikings should pick up his fifth-year option next spring. Right tackle Brian O'Neill is expected to command the team's next big contract extension as an established, much-needed cornerstone on the line. He's currently entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Among the projected reserves, swing tackle Rashod Hill took nearly $2.4 million guaranteed to stay for another season. The Vikings brought in new talent at center, where former Cardinals starter Mason Cole was acquired for a sixth-round pick while the team let Brett Jones walk. Cole can also play guard. Third-year tackle Oli Udoh also got reps at guard this spring.
Right guard. Davis gets to stay at right guard, his last position as an Ohio State team captain, where he'll push Dozier, the eighth-year NFL veteran, for the job. Stability at guard has been fleeting. It has been a carousel since Mike Harris and Brandon Fusco took every snap at guard in 2015. Davis could be the 17th different guard to appear in a regular season game for the Vikings in the six years since.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Darrisaw. Releasing Reiff in a cost-cutting move created a massive hole in an already inconsistent offensive line. Enter Darrisaw, who showed both impressive development and toughness to play through a groin injury for Virginia Tech last season. However, he underwent surgery in January and was still nursing a groin pull this spring, which kept him limited in Vikings practices.
ONE BIG QUESTION
Will bigger be better? Stemming from a midseason edict by coach Mike Zimmer in 2020, the Vikings' scouting staff moved from searching for the nimblest offensive linemen to find blockers who can bruise, too. At their listed weights, Davis (326 pounds) and Darrisaw (323 pounds) are already two of the team's four heaviest players. This is where the interior line, and Davis, could get the most attention. Zimmer has said he wants better interior protection for quarterback Kirk Cousins after watching too many pockets collapse. The 116 hits taken by Cousins last year were the most in his six regular seasons as a full-time NFL starter.