PFF: Nick Easton Minnesota Vikings best pass blocker thus far

According to Pro Football Focus, Minnesota Vikings left guard Nick Easton is one of the most efficient pass blockers in the National Football League.

After having a dismal season in every facet in 2016, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line has noticeably improved through the first 4 games of the 2017 campaign.

It’s still early in the season, but Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers have played up to their contracts thus far, Joe Berger is still reliable at age 35 and Pat Elflein seems to be trending up after a sneakily rough start to the season.  

One offensive lineman that’s noticeably struggled so far, however, is left guard Nick Easton.  After taking over the starting left guard spot when Alex Boone was cut, Easton stands out as the weak link on an otherwise improved unit when watching the games and looking at film

Particularly, Easton struggles with blocking at the point of attack, at the second level and in space, as evidenced below.

While his Pro Football Focus grade reflect these struggles (Easton is 63rd among guards with 39.6 overall grade), things aren’t all doom and gloom for the former undrafted free agent. According to PFF, Easton has actually been both the Vikings best pass blocker and one of the best pass blockers in the entire league for his position.

From PFF Director of Analytics Nathan Jahnke:

“In three out of four games this season, left guard Nick Easton hasn’t allowed a pressure. He’s allowed a pressure on just 1.4 percent of pass blocks which is the best for left guards to start every game.”

Admittedly, this is surprising upon first glance.  But it makes sense when you consider the fact that the according to the same website, the Vikings as a team have only allowed 36 pressures and 5 sacks on the year through 4 games.

Additionally, it comes as even less of a surprise when you realize that Easton’s issues as a player aren’t exacerbated nearly as much when the Vikings are in pass protection as they are when the team is run-blocking.

He’s noticeably a sub-par run-blocker due to his lack of strength and athleticism, but Easton fares better much as a pass protector thanks to solid technique and good balance, which matches his scouting report coming out of Harvard.

Given that he plays a position where he’s not out in space when the team is passing, Easton is able to mask his deficiencies as an athlete and play to his strengths when the offensive line is in pass protection, leading to a significantly higher success rate as a pass blocker than as a run blocker.

While this is a nice accolade for Easton, it’s still pretty obvious that as a whole, he isn’t a starting caliber player and that the Vikings should look to upgrade this offseason.  However, with being said, this shows that Easton clearly isn’t the total liability on the field that some may have thought.

And to his credit, he also seems to be improving as of late, albeit not enough to be considered a strength by any stretch of the imagination.

Though he probably won’t ever be considered a great, or even good player, Easton’s at least a guy that can give you some quality snaps and won’t kill your team with his presence on the field.  That’s obviously not ideal for a starter, but at least it’s more than what can be said about some of the offensive linemen the Minnesota Vikings trotted out last season.

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