Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE
The signing of Geoff Schwartz and the fourth pick overall in the draft, Matt Kalil, should have provided a clear improvement to the offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings fans have been optimistic that the line is performing much better as a unit than last year, and Christian Ponder certainly looks like he has more time than he did in 2011.
It's true that the offensive line is better than last year, but it just so happens that 2011 is a poor baseline by which to measure offensive line success.
John Sullivan and Matt Kalil have both lived up to their billing, and have combined to only give up one sack. Charlie Johnson hasn't been bad as a pass protector either, and while he doesn't hold onto his blocks as long as many might like, he hasn't made any crucial mistakes.
On the other hand, both Phil Loadholt and Brandon Fusco have been exposed as pass protectors. The right side of the line has given up two sacks, two hits and 14 quarterback hurries. Fusco only availed himself as a pass protector in one game, while Loadholt did the same (in a different game).
Otherwise, they've served as liabilities instead of assets. It's difficult to get offensive rhythm going without pass protection, and having an unreliable line will restrict the Vikings' evolution as an offense over the course of the season.
As run blockers, however, the story is different. John Sullivan has maintained his top play, and should challenge for a Pro Bowl spot with how he's been doing. With him in that regard, is Fusco, who has been paving the road for Peterson in a big way.
Brandon's ability to shoot out and take on defenders at the point of attack is surprising, although his game against the San Francisco 49ers is sure to draw concern. He has otherwise been stellar as a run blocker and seems to provide lanes that crack open the important run game for the Minnesota Vikings.
On the other hand, both of the tackles seem to need more work as road graders, as they either can't seem to maintain their blocks for long enough (Kalil) or engage in the right technique (Loadholt). Either way, runs off tackle are significantly more difficult without either bookend performing his job.
There aren't many complaints about Charlie Johnson in the run game, but he hasn't been stellar, either. More interesting is Jerome Felton, who is clearly the best skill player when it comes to run blocking.
The tight ends' deficiencies as run blockers has already been detailed, but it would be a disservice to gloss over Felton's abilities.
Jerome only had trouble twice with a defender as far as I can tell, and both times it was Patrick Willis, one of the league's best downhill players. His first game as a Viking was his best one, but that's not to say he hasn't been critical in providing yardage for the Vikings on the ground in other games.
Overall, the blocking is spotty and inconsistent. There aren't always clear running lanes and the pass protection is still suspect in many ways. Most of the blocking provided by Vikings players is either quite good or quite bad. There isn't a middle ground, and that sort of ambiguity spells "ugly" to most observers.