Minnesota’s offensive line woes have been well documented for the better part of a decade now, and this upcoming season comes with optimism, but those historic issues are still present. Within the interior, Minnesota is still riddled with question marks, most namely in the middle. The center job is still up for grabs which isn’t a great sign when you’ve used a highly valuable 1st round pick on that very position just 4 years ago. Bradbury’s time in purple could come to an end with this truly being his last chance.
Now it isn’t debatable that the offensive line since 2018 has been subpar, the stats and tape speak for themselves. Cousins, a pocket passer, was running for his life as if we were watching Tarkenton in his prime. The run blocking was impressive, and Dalvin Cook torched the league in 2019, but the pass blocking never really improved. The Vikings lucked out with Brian O’Neill, but other than him, they haven’t found any permanent faces to line the trenches. A constant rotation at every position has been the norm, and Bradbury was supposed to change that. A center from NC State, the “Grim Reacher” was meant to set a foundation in the interior of the offensive line after an abysmal 2018 season with all sorts of blocking issues. That’s not really what happened.
Since his rookie season, Bradbury had consistently been inconsistent. He doesn’t match up well against the top interior pass rushers in the league and is constantly getting bulled over. Now I understand that the interior offensive line doesn’t operate on islands like tackles, and Bradbury’s never had the best partners for pass blocking, but even then Bradbury in one-on-ones gets dominated far too often for being the former 18th overall pick.
To be fair, the offensive line coaching in Minnesota has been, to say the least, inconsistent during Bradbury’s tenure. Rick Dennison was infamously obsessed with trying to make Rashod Hill start for christ’s sake, that’s not exactly the guy you want coaching your young center. In general the pass blocking schemes more often than not caved in on Cousins, and with the long winded setups of the play action passes designed for the offense, it meant that those collapsing pockets did Cousins no favors. Pressure up the middle was usually the culprit, and seeing Bradbury turn into a human turnstile in real time is enough to make a grown man cry, and not in a good way.
With a new coaching staff and front office means a new first impression for Bradbury, but that also means that the institution that drafted him isn’t here anymore. There’s no attachment therefore it’s a completely unbiased party. They don’t have time to wait for Bradbury to “develop”, the team is attempting a playoff run, and if the center job is still up for grabs, that’s not a great sign for Bradbury. Minnesota brought depth and other centers in to challenge the position and if it’s as close as it’s said to be, then Minnesota could be in for a long season.
The Vikings don’t have time to wait, and Bradbury’s clock is officially ticking. If there isn’t improvement and he continues to be mediocre, expect a trade or even a cut. The 5th year option likely isn’t to be picked up at this rate, and Minnesota’s patience wears thin. It’s put up or shut up for Bradbury. I’d love to see him play up to the potential that was promised, but if it isn’t meant to be, then to paraphrase Bill Belichick, I’d rather get rid of him a year too early than a year too late.