Vikings’ offensive line in flux ahead of matchup with Giants

Published 8:31 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

EAGAN — When the Minnesota Vikings beat the New York Giants three weeks ago, they allowed plenty of pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins — including four sacks.

Minnesota was down one starting offensive lineman in the game; center Garrett Bradbury, who missed the Vikings’ final five games of the regular season. Minnesota’s offensive line is in more flux as the two teams match up again in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday afternoon.

The Vikings are without standout right tackle Brian O’Neill for the rematch and they still have uncertainty at center.

Bradbury (back) could possibly return Sunday afternoon after returning to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

Backup tackle Blake Brandel, who started three games in place of injured left tackle Christian Darrisaw earlier this season before sustaining a knee injury, was designated to return from injured reserve and is expected to be available Sunday.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m looking at it like Blake is 100% ready to go now,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. “We’ll just see how he responds to some real work. We’re going to be full-speed today and padded up tomorrow, so we’ll get to see some real, tangible evidence of what he can do for us Sunday, as well as some other guys.”

O’Neill and Austin Schlottman, who started at center for Bradbury against New York, were put on injured reserve last week. The Vikings started third-string center Chris Reed and backup tackle Oli Udoh against Chicago in the regular-season finale.
Bradbury’s potential return would be a boost.

“He’ll practice today in a limited capacity and then we’ll just see how he feels after,” O’Connell said. “I know he’s been feeling really good, it’s been positive reports and kind of the mindset of trying to go this week. But as I’ve said with multiple other injuries this year, we won’t put Garrett in a position unless we think he can succeed and be healthy doing so, so it’ll be something we work through throughout the week.”

Safety Harrison Smith (knee) and linebacker Brian Asamoah (knee) were also limited in practice Wednesday. Smith was inactive for the regular-season finale against Chicago.

Cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. was held out of practice Wednesday due to a personal matter, while defensive lineman James Lynch (shoulder) returned to practice for the first time since being injured against the Giants.