Is it too soon for the Vikings to give up on Ed Ingram?
Last week the Minnesota Vikings made a signing that a large collection of the fanbase had been wanting on for months. Adding offensive guard Dalton Risner to an offensive line that has had it’s fair share of struggles to begin the year helped quiet the concerns of a passionate fanbase, for now.
But it may have come a bit too late, as the Vikings already faced what’s likely to be the offensive line’s biggest test of the season, facing off with a world-class Philadelphia Eagles defensive line, yet the signing was finally an attempt to address one of the team’s biggest weaknesses and that’s a plus.
Early on, aside from injuries to starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury, right guard Ed Ingram has been the biggest complaint for many watching the Vikings closely.
Ingram, a second-year pro who started all 17 games as a rookie second-round pick, entered his second season as a bit of a wart in the starting lineup. He ranked 56th among 73 guards according to Pro Football Focus in 2022. The need to improve was obvious.
But the Vikings stood pat, bringing in virtually no competition for Ingram during the offseason. The plan to roll with the 24-year-old for a second season was already in motion.
Week 1 came, and Ingram once again became the focal point of many Vikings fans’ complaints, allowing two hurries, one hit and a sack while also committing a penalty. According to PFF, it was the third-worst game of Ingram’s career, with a grade of 46.2.
Week 2 wasn’t much better, but Ingram showed improvement, against a strong Eagles front seven, nonetheless. He didn’t allow a sack but did allow three hits on Kirk Cousins. Still, Ingram left plenty room for growth.
Week 3 finally offered legitimate reason for hope. The Vikings, who had been struggling to get anything going with their rushing attack, finished with 130 yards, which is over three times as much as their previous season-high. Ingram’s work in the trenches was a major reason why.
When the Vikings finally committed to a game plan that included rushing the football, Ingram turned in a career-high 91.1 run-block grade from PFF, which is tied for the highest mark recorded by any guard in Week 3 so far.
Ingram was mauling defenders, opening up lanes for Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler, which is a large reason why he’s in the lineup to begin with. His work so far has Ingram ranked as the sixth-best run-blocking guard in football per PFF. Here’s a small example of the physicality Ingram can play with, as seen versus the Chargers.
However, he still leaves a lot of reason for concern in pass protection, where Ingram allowed an alarming six pressures and two sacks against the Chargers. As solid as he’s been in limited snaps as a run blocker, Ingram still ranks 58th among guards when asked to pass block this season. Only 15 guards rank worse.
Yet, Ingram is still learning and improving with every rep he takes. Even with the addition of Risner, the Vikings may not be ready to pull the plug on their young prospect just yet, especially after Sunday’s effort to help spearhead a much-improved rushing attack.
Then again, since the Vikings attempt nearly three times as many passes as they do runs, perhaps prioritizing a better pass protector, such as Risner, would be wise for the way this team is currently constructed. Yet, that doesn’t mean Ingram doesn’t have value, it’s just a matter of the Vikings being a pass-heavy team instead of a run-based offense. In a place like Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Baltimore, Ingram would thrive, because those offenses run much more than they throw.
For the Vikings, they need to decide what they’d prefer. Should they continue to start Ingram, knowing there’s still a strong chance we haven’t seen his best yet? Even if that includes some woeful performances in pass protection?
Or would it be more worth it to risk disrupting the ongoing offensive line chemistry by giving Risner a chance, in an effort to improve an already excellent passing attack? For now, the Vikings have opted to continue developing their recent draft pick, and Sunday’s effort against the Chargers was an encouraging sign. Yet, Risner was added for a reason, and if Ingram’s mistakes in pass protection continue to outweigh his strengths as a run blocker, coach Kevin O’Connell won’t have a choice but to make a change.