Former Pitt offensive lineman Brian O’Neill saw the first action of his NFL career on Sunday, when the Minnesota Vikings played the Green Bay Packers to a 29-29 tie. He saw 32 snaps in the contest, stepping in for right tackle Rashod Hill in the third quarter, and his debut was made all the more memorable by the fact that he helped his team fight back from a 20-7 deficit.
In addition to helping the team avoid what would have been its first loss of the 2018 season, O’Neill may have gone a long way toward helping his own cause, as he graded out well above Hill and second only to left tackle Riley Reiff on the Vikings, according to Pro Football Focus.
#Vikings offensive line @PFF grades from Week 2:— Sean Borman (@SeanBoarMan) September 17, 2018
LT Riley Reiff - 69.2
LG Tom Compton - 63.1
C Brett Jones - 51.7
RG Mike Remmers - 74.4
RT Rashod Hill - 51.7
RT Brian O’Neill - 68.7
Reiff graded highest (81.3) in pass blocking reps
After the game, O’Neill discussed the progress he made between the time of his arrival in Minnesota and his NFL debut on Sunday.
“Yeah, I thought I came a long way,” O’Neill said, according to Vikings.com. “But there’s still miles to go. I have so many million details I have to worry about to get better and try and improve.”
Despite O’Neill’s modest appraisal of his own performance, he impressed a number of fans and analysts, with some suggesting he should get a chance at regular playing time.
Regardless of Hill's health, Brian O'Neill needs to stay at RT.— Andy Carlson (No Relation to the Jabroni Kicker) (@AndyCarlsonShow) September 16, 2018
Such a move would hardly be unheard of within the Vikings organization, as Hill fell into a starting role in a similar manner. Coincidentally, he saw his first playing time in the league in November 2016, when T.J. Clemmings, a former teammate of O‘Neill’s at Pitt, went down with an injury. Although he didn’t win the job immediately, he impressed and eventually became a starter in 2017.
O’Neill may have a clearer path, however, as the Vikings are a bit thin along their offensive line. In addition to that, Hill’s injury has been described as minor but may keep him out of the Vikings lineup when the team faces the Buffalo Bills in Week 3, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Given another shot, it’s possible O’Neill could earn a spot on the first team.