Last season the Minnesota Vikings were forced to adjust offensively to make up for their inability to protect Sam Bradford. This year, the Vikings have allowed one sack in the past five games – and that was for a loss of one yard.
According to Pro Football Focus data, the Vikings allowed just five total pressures against Washington. With a clean pocket, quarterback Case Keenum completed 17-of-20 throws.
“I really like our offensive line,” head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. “The way they’re playing together. They’re playing really tough and physical.”
Left tackle Riley Reiff still hasn’t allowed a sack this season and fill-in right tackle Rashod Hill gave up zero pressures in D.C. on Sunday.
Zimmer said keeping his QB out of trouble has also been driven by running backs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray as well as offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s protection schemes.
“Jerick had a couple of nice blocks in there, Latavius did as well and we’re changing up protections and I think that has helped Case quite a bit, as far as if we end up seeing some blitzes and being able to change protections to different things,” Zimmer said.
Continuity up front has been a plus as well. Last season the Vikings were routinely swapping in different starters because of injuries or poor play. This year, rookie center Pat Elflein has played every snap, right guard Joe Berger has only missed two snaps and Reiff has played 97% of plays.
“The good thing is the communication has been very good,” Zimmer said. “When something happens whether it’s in the game or it’s in practice, they are able to communicate what went wrong pretty quickly so that’s been a good thing.”
The Vikings’ offensive line has also had a major impact on the running game, which ranks 10th in total yards.
“I think that they can get to the second level a lot better,” Zimmer said. “It helps when they can get off the double team or get to the second level and get to the linebacker, that’s how you can get some big runs.”
Minnesota’s next opponent – the Los Angeles Rams – will test their growth on the O-line. They are fifth in the NFL with 28 sacks.