Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill’s influence grew significantly during a standout campaign for the second year prospect.
There were plenty of questions surrounding the Minnesota Vikings offensive line during the 2019 season. The play of Brian O’Neill was not one of them.
The offensive tackle enjoyed a breakout campaign that cemented his position as a key cog in Minnesota’s offense. This represented a significant boost for a much-maligned offensive line that came up short once again in the playoffs.
It was a testament to how much O’Neill improved during the last offseason. He spent considerable time brushing up vital areas of his game that resulted in improved consistency and production.
A second-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2018, O’Neill endured his fair share of problems during his rookie year. This is not uncommon for a player at the right tackle position, but it left some uncertainty as to whether he could make a successful transition to the NFL level and be a prolonged starter.
These are questions O’Neill answered and more in his second term. He gave up just half a sack for an offense that showed definite signs of life thanks to sensational running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Kirk Cousins having arguably the best season of his career.
Cousins’ overall achievements can be somewhat attributed to the progression of O’Neill. His increased mobility and movement against some of the league’s most decorated pass-rushers was eye-catching. His play in 2019 should leave Minnesota feeling encouraged that they have finally solved one portion of their protection.
O’Neill’s performance further highlighted the problems within the interior of the offensive line that will need to be addressed by the Vikings this offseason. Whether they move Riley Reiff inside to guard and draft an offensive tackle or not remains to be seen.
One thing they can now count on is a steady influence at the right tackle spot. O’Neill was highly sought after by Minnesota after leaving a lasting impression during his NFL Draft evaluation process.
Their faith in O’Neill after an up and down rookie campaign has given him a sense of security and confidence. He played with a swagger and a confidence that was not evident during the 2018 season.
O’Neill’s hard work and determination to make the position his own has got him to where he is today. He understood the need to bulk up given his slighter frame compared to most lineman and this was another vital element that led to an outstanding second year in Vikings colors.
One thing O’Neill must guard against now is complacency. He must continue to develop and fine-tune his outstanding skill-set that could see him take another massive leap and become one of the best right tackles in the league.
Another good year for O’Neill also has substantial financial implications. He is entering the third year of his rookie deal and counts just $1.2 million against the cap next season.
As is the case with most high-end performers on rookie contracts, the end of their third year normally sees them get a bumper contract. O’Neill will be no different and he could command top dollar with another season like the one that recently concluded.
With salary cap restrictions set to potentially ease in 2021, this is something Minnesota could be more than willing to accommodate. Both offensive tackle positions have been areas of significant concern for many years within the organization and providing they draft right this spring, then the entire line could be one of the strongest areas on their roster.
O’Neill deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the application shown towards making giant strides. This has made him an indispensable member of the Vikings roster and a potential league-wide star at his position.
This is a far cry from the questions surrounding O’Neill both before the 2018 NFL Draft and after his rookie year. And he is thoroughly deserving of all the praise coming his way.