I'll be honest--as I was thinking about the performance of this year's offense, I was fully prepared to place a lot of blame on the offensive line. After watching all the penalties, the lines inability to protect the quarterback and the Vikings' average rushing game, I thought the unit was mediocre at best, and possibly as bad as the one from last year, despite the additions of Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk.
Before I started typing however, I went searching for some numerical backing. And I'm thankful I did, because I was dead wrong. The offensive line was not the problem this year. In fact, the offensive line was the only aspect of the unit that improved from last year, according to the stats used by Football Outsiders and Cold, Hard Football Facts. Both sites use different measures, but both agree--the 2005 Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines in the league (31st according to FO, 30th according to CHFF) while the 2006 line was above average (14th according to FO, 11th according to CHFF). Clearly, the talent infusion worked well enough (at least on the left side) to vastly improve the performance of the offensive line.
That does not, however, mean that the line does not need to be upgraded this off season, or that it should not be a priority. The penalties are still an issue, and a sign of a line that is either undisciplined or not talented enough or both. Nor did my eyes deceive me--the stats also say the Vikings' line was awful at protecting the QB. And last time I checked, inexperienced quarterbacks do not mix well with continuous pressure. So while the offensive line was not the black hole of suck that I thought it was, if the Vikings want to improve their offense, one of the their goals for this off season should be to continue upgrading the offensive line, particularly on the right side and focusing on linemen that can protect the Tarvaris Revolution.