Apparently, the Vikings Have a Starting Left Guard Competition

Dalton Risner, Blake Brandel, Minnesota Vikings
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsCredit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Over the weekend, the Minnesota Vikings surprised everyone a bit when they moved in on re-signing Dalton Risner. We all knew Risner wanted to be here but it never has seemed like the Vikings had all that much interest in him.

Nonetheless, when your only other option is Blake Brandel, and Risner’s new powerhouse agent Drew Rosenhaus is pretty much begging you to sign the veteran starter, at a position of need… you take the talent, especially when he signs for as cheap as Risner did (more on that momentarily).

Minnesota Vikings left guard battle: Dalton Risner vs Blake Brandel

Once Risner’s deal was finalized, most assumed he would be back at left guard in week one. Even Christian Darrisaw told Darren Wolfson (KSTP) that he was excited to have Risner next to him again this season.

But not so fast, says Minnesota Vikings head coach, Kevin O’Connell, who took to the press conference podium set up outside TCO Performance Center on Tuesday for the start of mandatory minicamp.

When asked about what the depth chart looks like at left guard, KOC wasn’t just non-committal to Dalton Risner as the Vikings’ week one starter, he almost made it sound like it’s Blake Brandel’s job to lose, not the other way around.

“Blake has been a guy, really since he’s gotten here, he’s been asked to really be ready to play two or three different spots at one time. So our challenge to Blake was to really embrace that left guard spot through the spring. Really get, you know, the teaching and the mastery of your craft at one spot, which he really hasn’t been able to do, since he’s been a Minnesota Viking.

We’ve seen the gains off that between not only Blake, but his fit, amongst those five offensive linemen. And then, there was a purpose and a plan of bringing Dalton back to create a very competitive situation at that left guard spot. We want to play the best five guys we can. You could see a bunch of different combinations of guys in there, especially as we try to allow that competition to naturally kind of play out…”

Kevin O’Connell on the Minnesota Vikings’ left guard battle

Blake Brandel or Dalton Risner? What their contracts and age say…

Now, Brandel (27) isn’t that much younger than Risner (28) and neither is playing under a rookie contract. In fact, their contracts are very similar. Brandel is signed for an average of $1.9 million per year (3 years) and Risner is on a deal that comes out at about $1.5 million, that can get as high as $2.4 million with incentives

In other words, the only thing from stopping the Vikings from making this a left guard battle is past experience. If they feel like Blake Brandel could very well be as good as (if not better than) Dalton Risner, it’s KOC’s job to figure that out.

Related: Van Ginkel Still Injured; Return for Week 1 in Question

O’Connell was smart to publicly announce this depth chart competition today, as early as possible, something the Vikings head coach noted when explaining the left guard competition. And not only is he concerned with the starters pushing each other, KOC said the Vikings are focusing on improving and really testing their O-Line depth, in general, through the rest of this summer and into fall.

“… this time, we have training camp. It’s not mid-season, it’s not four or five weeks into the season, whatever it was last year. Dalton’s got a year in the system under his belt, he’s a veteran player, he came in in great shape, ready to roll.”

“That’s one thing we really wanted to have an emphasis on this year was it’s not just about those five guys that are out there. It’s the depth and then it’s the development of guys that are on the practice squad. Can we rely on them to continue to have kind of an arrow up mindset, to push people?

And not only next year, but the following year? ?Because when you’re having to reinvent that room every single year, it can be difficult from a continuity standpoint. You’d love to have a farm system in that offensive line room.”

Kevin O’Connell on the Minnesota Vikings’ focus on having good offensive line depth this season

I don’t know who will be the Minnesota Vikings starting left guard when camp breaks in a couple months and the team gets prepared for week one of their season vs the New York Giants. But one thing is for sure, nobody who is getting reps at that position should feel like their job is secure.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: