The rookies will arrive at the TCO Performance Center on Sunday, July 23, while the veterans have two more days to prepare for the NFL season, which begins on September 10 with a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There will be several interesting contests, and one of them could be for the starting spot on the interior offensive line.
A Viking quietly changed his position
oli udoh Came into the league as an offensive tackle from small school Elon. Former general manager Rick Spielman selected him in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The tackle was a big man with interesting athletic equipment but he didn’t play for a powerhouse school. These are attributes that teams will have to bet on later in the draft.
Four years later, Udoh’s career has been solid and he has already beaten expectations of a sixth round selection. Udoh appeared in one game as a rookie, six in 2020 and all 34 during the past two seasons, starting 16 contests in 2021 and one in 2022.
Most people remember his time as the starting right guard for Mike Zimmer’s Vikings in 2021, but he struggled mightily. The frequency of the punishments made people justifiably nervous.
The new regime came in and immediately signed two guards in free agency (Chris Reed and Jesse Davis) and drafted Ed Ingram in the second round. Udoh was moved back to his natural position and was the backup right tackle. A year later, Udoh is apparently back as a guard – at least that’s how he’s listed. Official Vikings Roster,
But why would he do that if he doesn’t play well at that position in 2021? Well, there are a few reasons why this move still makes sense. At first, Ingram also struggled, and much of it has been called “rookie struggles,” but the Vikings must plan for the scenario in which he remains as he was and find a potential replacement for him.
GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah neither signed nor drafted any new guards and returned the entire line. Top competition for Ingram is once again the veteran Chris Reid who couldn’t beat him last year.
Udoh allowed more QB rushes than Ingram, but Ingram allowed far more pressures, hits, and sacks. Ingram finished his first season with a pass block efficiency of 95.3%, and Udoh finished 2021 with 96.3%. Although Udoh had a league-leading 16 penalties, Ingram only had 4.
At the end of the day, the Vikings are trying just like last year. They want to create competition between some players and try to find the best, betting on serious improvement from someone.
Udoh played well when he had to replace the injured Brian O’Neal last season, so it was surprising the Vikings were able to retain him, and no other team snagged Udoh in free agency.
Another reason for position change is the remaining depth of the tackle. The decision-makers drafted Waderian Lowe in 2022 and kept him as the fifth offensive tackle all year – an unusual measure. Most teams have four tackles, but apparently they liked Lowe enough to find an extra spot.
The other man in the mix is Blake Brandel, who replaced Christian Darrishaw whenever he had to miss time due to his pairing. If the Vikings are satisfied with both of them as backups, they will want to find a reason to keep Udoh on the roster, and their best bet is guard or a hybrid between the two positions. Contrary to that hybrid theory, the Vikings list other peoples in several places. Reid and backup center Schlotman are listed as (G/C), so it was possible to list Udoh as tackle and guard. Some other players were listed as Simple (OL) – offensive lineman,
The Vikings will likely start training camp with last year’s starting group — but without Brian O’Neal, who probably won’t be ready. However, it is common for some players to be shuffled around, trying them out at different positions and preparing them if they actually have to play at a different position. We’ll know more about Udoh’s status in a few weeks.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team at the time, despite quarterback Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms and classic rock is his musical genre of choice. If you like Vikings, follow them on Twitter: @JanikEckardt