Ezra Cleveland excited to play left guard for Vikings in 2021

(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Ezra Cleveland
(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Ezra Cleveland /

Last season saw Ezra Cleveland get thrown into the mix on the offensive line due to a number of injuries and lack of depth. It was apparent the Minnesota Vikings wanted to take things slowly with their second-round draft pick in 2020 but were left with no other options but to plug him in at right guard last year.

Cleveland took his lumps during an up-and-down year on the offensive line, but the team will likely need to rely on him to assume a starting role during the 2021 season and it appears as though that position will be left guard.

As shared on the team’s official website, the former Boise State blocker will make his return to the left side of the offensive line, playing next to two first-round picks for the Vikings: rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw and third-year center Garrett Bradbury.

Cleveland moving to left guard could be great for the Vikings

Minnesota’s offensive line is an area where the team has invested heavily. The starting five will consist of two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and likely a third-round selection, making expectations high for the unit in 2021.

"“I think it’ll help me tremendously, just having that experience at guard and moving back to my natural side,” Cleveland said in his Wednesday presser. “I’m excited for that, and I’m excited for this year.”"

To be fair, the bar is set very low for Minnesota’s offensive line in 2021. Last year’s unit got pushed around in a major way and it would be humiliating if this year’s unit matched that production or somehow performed worse than that unit. Having some new faces on the line and some more experience under this young unit’s belt could do wonders for the Vikings’ offense.

Minnesota’s right tackle Brian O’Neill sees a lot of progress from Cleveland this offseason and had nothing but positives to say about the team’s new left guard, including several observations on his speed, technique, and stature.

"“I think he looks bigger, he looks stronger, he looks more confident, he’s answering questions a lot quicker,” O’Neill said. “His footwork looks tight, he’s in great shape.”"

Despite their problems on the offensive line last year, the Vikings still ended the year fourth in total offensive yards in 2020 with 6,292 while being fifth in rushing yards and No. 14 in passing yards. If they can give Kirk Cousins a little more time in the pocket and create some bigger holes in the run game, the sky could be the limit for Minnesota in 2021.