Vikings Christian Darrisaw film study: Can the left tackle live up to its potential?

For the past few seasons, the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line has been a weakness that they’ve had to find ways to overcome. This season, we could finally see a competent offensive line in Minnesota. A big reason for hope is that the Vikings seemed to have found a long-term solution to one of the most difficult positions to fill: left tackle.

Last year’s first-round pick Christian Darrisaw didn’t play until Week 5 because he was recovering from a trunk/groin injury, but he’s shown the athleticism to become an elite left tackle.

Like most rookies, he still needs to develop from a fundamental standpoint — he’s allowed five sacks and 22 pressures in 11 games. I broke down some of Darrisaw’s tape with Mike Tice, a voice familiar to Vikings fans. Tice was the Vikings’ offensive line coach from 1997 to 2001, took over as interim head coach in 2001, and was officially head coach from 2002 to 2005. From there he was assistant coach of the Jaguars, Bears, Falcons and Raiders. until his retirement in 2017. Tice was enamored with Darrisaw’s athleticism but repeatedly saw the same technical flaw.

Darrisaw was not patient enough in his passing game. Instead of staying square, he was spinning parallel to the touchline too quickly and too often. This left him susceptible to speed boosts and inward movements.

Here in Week 15 against the Bears, Darrisaw was matched against Robert Quinn, who finished the season with 18 1/2 sacks.

“If that (the defensive end) runs the bump, he’s good,” Tice explained. “(Darrisaw) transforms, you see, and it almost gets him in trouble. It just spins too fast. It should stay squarer longer. Well, he’s not square. I don’t know if that’s what they teach him.

On Darrisaw’s third step, he was already fully turned towards the sideline. Quinn slowed down because he tried to sting on the inside, but if he had just used a sprint on the outside, he might have beaten Darrisaw cleanly. It helped quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​get off the ball quickly.

Although this technical flaw appeared time and time again, more often than not Darrisaw was able to compensate through special movement skills. During the 2011 NFL player lockout, Tice studied every snap and concluded that the #1 move an offensive lineman must have is the ability to change direction on inside moves.

Here, Darrisaw was confronted by Quinn again in week 18.

Again, Darrisaw turned quickly to the sideline, opening up for a late inside move.

From being parallel to the sideline, Darrisaw was able to smoothly roll inside and hit Quinn with heavy hands, tripping him.

“See, that’s the best thing he can do is he can change direction,” Tice said. “Look at the posture of the body. Look what he is capable of. He wants to be a little more patient but he is able to recover. It’s the one thing you can’t teach – it’s something you were born with.

In that play against the Rams, Darrisaw was matched against Leonard Floyd (#54) in empty protection (no running back in the backfield).

On this set, Darrisaw did a better job of staying square and patient as Floyd initially rushed to the outside.

“The!” said Tice. “Watch when the guy sticks it inside on the inside move. Watch him dance with him right there. I mean it’s pretty special. You can’t teach that. It’s something you were born with. Boom! And see he does that kick with his right foot when 94 gives him that fake inside and you see him do that inside step to match it. See right there. It’s damn good.

As Floyd attempted to return to the outside, Darrisaw was able to make a smooth transition to the outside and got him in control. Normally the word ‘dance’ is negative in football, but it’s the big man’s dance – the type of dance that stops passers in their tracks.

One of the most dramatic displays of offensive lineman athleticism is when they run a screen and are in space with momentum on their side against faster but smaller defenders.

On this piece, the Vikings had a screen called tunnel. Darrisaw had a technical five (shaded defensive lineman to tackle the outside shoulder) on him and was responsible for blocking the first defender at the perimeter.

Darrisaw patiently invited the pass rusher inside before getting rid of him and releasing him to the field.

Darrisaw had to stalk the inside linebacker with over 10 yards of space in front of him.

Darrisaw took a great angle and tackled his target.

“He’s a good athlete,” Tice said. “It’s a good game. Good player. I would take it in a heartbeat.

The biggest knock on Darrisaw’s scouting report coming out of Virginia Tech was that he didn’t finish consistently. There were times when he would drop a beat early before the whistle sounded. Looking at the boards, Darrisaw wasn’t crushing defenders at the attacking point, but he was very good in the running game and made a lot of difficult blocks due to his quickness on the ball and his ability to change sides. direction. Once in a while there were games when you wish he had whistled.

The Vikings had one shot played and Floyd was lined up against Darrisaw.

Darrisaw again turned to the sideline, but it was play protection, so he might have been taught to be more aggressive. He was in position to put Floyd past Cousins.

Floyd couldn’t get to Cousins ​​in time to make the pass because Darrisaw forced Floyd out of the way. He did his job but he kind of stopped.

“I’d like to see him, you know, stay after that guy for a bit instead of stopping,” Tice said. “If you train to finish, then when you get into the game, you will finish.”

Darrisaw certainly made some rookie mistakes and you want to see him finish strong in every game, but he can do things you can’t teach and he doesn’t have a long way to go to fix his technique. If he can live up to his potential, this Vikings offensive line could be massively improved. After our movie session, Tice was optimistic about the state of the Vikings O line.

“Whoever coaches this group should be drooling right now,” Tice said. “You have (Darrisaw). You have Ezra Cleveland. Right tackle Brian O’Neill isn’t bad. This could potentially be a very good line.

Center Garrett Bradbury also improved last season. The Vikings have yet to determine who their starting right guard will be, but it looks like the Vikings will enter next season with more than four starters.

(Top photo of Christian Darrisaw and Kirk Cousins: Quinn Harris/USA Today)

Comments are closed.