Udoh suffered an injury in Thursday’s loss to the Eagles, which O’Connell updated on Friday as a season-ending torn quadriceps tendon injury that will keep Udoh out the remainder of the 2023 season.
Udoh started in place of left tackle Christian Darrisaw and filled in for right tackle Brian O’Neill last season. David Quessenberry finished the game at left tackle for the Vikings, who were also without starting center Garrett Bradbury on Thursday. Austin Schlottmann started in Bradbury’s place, which left just one reserve lineman on the sidelines, Blake Brandel.
O’Connell is hopeful that Bradbury and Darrisaw can take advantage of a 10-day window before the Vikings face the Chargers on September 24.
Udoh, a sixth-round pick in 2019, started 16 games at guard in 2021 and made two starts in 2022 at right tackle for O’Neill.
Viking Pass Protection Not the Problem
Yes, Kirk Cousins has been the most-hit quarterback in the NFL since 2020. That remains true this season, as the 35-year-old leads the league with 16 hits taken through two games.
However, those hits are partially Cousins’ responsibility and also a philosophy he’s carried: that he’s going to stick in the pocket and make the throw.
The Vikings offensive line, injuries and all, has actually been serviceable in pass protection. Two weeks into the season, Minnesota ranks 15th in pressure rate allowed (31.2%), per Pro Football Focus. Pro Football Reference has the Vikings even higher with a 25.8% pressure rate. Pass protection hasn’t been horrific for the Vikings.
What has been horrific is the running game.
Vikings Run-Blocking is the Problem
Two weeks into the season, the Vikings have posted a league-low 69 yards rushing on 26 carries for 2.7 yards per attempt.
Alexander Mattison isn’t at fault. According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Mattison gained just 0.95 yards before contact on his 19 carries this season. That ranks 43rd in the league, which saw an average of 2.17 yards before contact.
The Vikings offensive front, particularly the interior, is getting dominated at the line of scrimmage. Two weeks into the season and Minnesota has abandoned the running running game, attempting the second-fewest rushes in the league.
The Eagles had the ball for nearly twice as long as Minnesota, and still only managed to squeak out a single-score victory. Cousins and the passing game have shown their ability to be explosive but consistency in the running game would instill more confidence from the offensive line and give the defense a breather.
“It becomes a question you’ve got to ask yourself, knowing that I’ll get asked the question about the number of rushing attempts,” O’Connell said, per ESPN. “My ultimate goal is to try to move the football and score points and overcome those turnovers, which make it more of a dire need but more of a necessity to have success on that drive however we see fit. Overall, we’re not going to abandon the run. We’ve got to run the football more. It’ll help our whole entire team and our whole entire offense.”
Trevor Squire is a sports journalist covering the Minnesota Vikings for Heavy.com. Trevor studied journalism at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities, making stops at the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can reach him at tre[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @trevordsquire. More about Trevor Squire
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