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Thread: Vikings Serious About Offensive Line Repairs

  1. #1
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    Vikings Serious About Offensive Line Repairs

    By Christopher Gates@DailyNorseman on Mar 18, 2016, 12:30p


    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line was, to put it charitably, not good. Along with the wide receiver position, it was the weakest spot on a very talented roster. So, since there really wasn't anything worth writing about in free agency at the wide receiver position, Rick Spielman decided to focus his free agent attention on what he could fix now.

    Obviously, we don't know if the Vikings have truly improved their offensive line or not. . .however, we do know that they've put a whole lot of capital towards that end.

    According to the folks at Spotrac (thanks to a link from 24/7 Sports), we can now tell you that the Minnesota Vikings are spending a greater percentage of their salary cap space on the offensive line than any other team in the National Football League. The Vikings are now spending over 25% of their 2016 salary cap allocation on offensive linemen, and that's without figuring in the one-year deal that Andre Smith signed on Thursday.

    So, what are the Vikings potentially looking at along the offensive line now? Well, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Vikings now have nine offensive linemen on the roster that have started 16 games in a season previously:

    Joe Berger
    Alex Boone
    T.J. Clemmings
    Brandon Fusco
    Mike Harris
    Matt Kalil
    Phil Loadholt
    Andre Smith

    John Sullivan

    The five players that are italicized in the list above are all in contract years, whether it's from a previous contract, a restructure, or signing a one-year deal with the Vikings.

    If we look at the tackle spots, it looks like Kalil is going to remain relatively unchallenged on the left side. The team picked up his $11 million option at the start of the new league year, and there really doesn't appear to be a ready replacement for him on the roster at the present time. For better or for worse. . .hopefully for better under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Tony Sparano. . .Kalil is going to get what might be his last audition at left tackle with the Vikings.

    At the other tackle spot, on the other hand, it looks like things could get a little crazy. The team brought back Loadholt after his Achilles injury last year, and brought in Smith. I'm not sure if people are assuming that Loadholt is just going to walk back into his starting spot if he's healthy, and the Vikings didn't give Smith the kind of money they did for him to hang out on the bench. This might be the battle to watch in Training Camp this August, and the man who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Vikings in 2015, T.J. Clemmings, may not even be a serious part of the starting discussion at the position in 2016.

    The three interior spots on the line are going to be a real free-for-all as well. Let's start at left guard, where you'd have to think that new addition Alex Boone is going to slot in, having played there last year with the San Francisco 49ers. That means he'd be replacing Brandon Fusco, who got a big contract extension from the Vikings in 2014 but struggled mightily with his move to the other side in 2015. Would the Vikings consider moving Fusco back to the right side?

    Well, then you run into the problem of what to do with Mike Harris, who was a pleasant surprise at right guard in his first full season at the position. Harris really got better as the season went on, and the fear was that the Vikings would lose him in free agency.(TheNew York Giants, among other teams, were rumored to have been sniffing around him in the "legal tampering" period.) But, the Vikings brought him back on a one-year deal, and you can bet he's going to be battling his tail off in camp this summer to prove that he should get even more in 2017.

    One of Boone, Fusco, and Harris is going to be spending the majority of their time on the bench in 2016 (barring injury). Which one is it going to be? If I had to guess, just in terms of versatility, it seems that Harris would be the odd man out. He could provide valuable depth at both tackle and guard, and if he had to step in for Boone or Fusco, the drop-off in play would be negligible.

    Then there's the center position, where long-time starter John Sullivan should be fully recovered from the back injury that cost him all of 2015 and attempting to reclaim his starting spot. The problem with that is the man he'll be trying to usurp is Joe Berger, who was one of the best centers in the NFL last season in Sullivan's stead, according to most metrics. Berger has spent plenty of time at guard during his stretch with the Vikings, but is there going to be room for him at the guard position of Sullivan regains his past level of play? Like Harris, Berger could be a valuable backup at a number of positions if he doesn't take the starting job back.

    To this point, we haven't even mentioned a lot of young players that the team seems to like a lot, too. Guys like Austin Shepherd, who came in for the Vikings in a lot of "jumbo" sets in 2015. There's center Nick Easton, who the Vikings thought enough of to trade Gerald Hodges to the 49ers for. There's guard Jeremiah Sirles, who the Vikings thought enough of to send a draft pick to the San Diego Chargers for. There's center Zac Kerin, who finally got an opportunity to get onto the big club after several seasons on the practice squad. There's tackle Carter Bykowski, the local kid that was having a pretty solid camp until a pectoral injury cost him his season.

    When the Vikings get to Mankato in late July, there won't be a single positional battle more interesting to watch than what happens along the offensive line. Give credit to Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and cap guru Rob Brzezinski. They knew they had to attack this spot in free agency, and that's exactly what they've done. We don't know yet who will win these positional battles in camp, but with the moves they've made at the position, the Minnesota Vikings should definitely have a much stronger offensive line than they have in 2015. Just as importantly, they should have significantly better depth to cover any possible injury scenarios.

  2. #2
    I think Kalil will play well this season...because it's a contract year. And I hope Spielman is smart enough to wash his hands of Kalil after this season. I've had enough of that dude, and if he's worth $11 million this season, Peterson is worth $100 million this season.

    Hopefully, Clemmings will be groomed to take over at LT in 2017 or sooner. He seems a little light to play RT for the Vikings, even though he played there in college. I think he just needs coached up and he'll be able to give it a go.

    But it wouldn't be a bad idea to really try and get a grip on the position by using a first or second round pick on a tackle. I would love to see any of Decker, Conklin, Ifedi, Clark or Spriggs in the first or second rounds. Other than Treadwell, I don't think a WR should trump one of these guys at our first pick. There is a glut of WRs we can get in the 2nd, 3rd or later that can compete and contribute this year.

  3. #3
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    So there sounds like there will be some competition for Kalil at LT. Supposedly there is a chance that Andre Smith will get some looks over there depending on how the RT competition goes. Carter Bykowski will also get some looks at LT and was doing pretty well until he got hurt last year in training camp. I could see the Vikings drafting Jason Spriggs from Indiana as a possible replacement for Kalil down the line. Not sure if he's worth drafting in the first round but if he was there when the Vikings draft in the second round I would jump all over him.

    Regarding our first rounder ... seems like most 'experts' are projecting the Vikings to select a WR. There has been a lot of talk regarding Josh Doctson of TCU. Not only because of his combine numbers which were pretty impressive (especially his 41" vertical jump), but he was also very productive in college. There have been comparisons made between him and DeAndre Hopkins of Houston. I compared their combine numbers and Doctson matches up well against Hopkins. The knocks against Doctson are the his age ... he's 24. Also there is a question about the defenses he faced in the Big 12. The Big 12 had some really good teams but they were good because of the high powered offenses and not their dominate defenses. Some areas that Doctson excels at are his ability high point the ball and snatch it out of the air. He's also known for having great body control.

    Another prospect that will garner attention from the Vikings is the consensus number one wideout Laquon Treadwell from Mississippi. He didn't run the 40 yard dash at the combine so there is a big question about his speed. How well he runs at his Pro Day will go a long way in determining where he will be taken in the first round. All eyes will be on Ole Miss this Monday as Treadwell will finally be running the 40.
    Last edited by ovike; 03-27-2016 at 03:17 AM.

  4. #4
    That's what I was hoping when I heard about their interest in Andre Smith. If Loadholt is healthy--and I assume he is since he's still on the team at this point--why bring in another RT? Smith has been a starter at RT for a couple of years I think. He hasn't played too terrific, so maybe he's meant to be a backup with experience at both tackle spots. But it's also hard for me to think he's coming in to be a backup.

    The draft: the WRs are pretty underwhelming compared to past drafts. I kinda wish we had gone with popular opinion last season and drafted DeVante Parker instead of Waynes. Last year was a great crop of WRs (and I realize we got one later in Diggs) but this season is not great at WR but solid at CB. I'm not giving up on Waynes mind you, since he started playing better late in the season. Marcus Peters made most people forget that CB in the NFL is actually pretty tough and takes some time. I think we can see how Rhodes has grown and have hope that Waynes will take the experience and the coaching and turn into a good one. If he doesn't have the starting job opposite Rhodes this season though, I'll start to worry a little more lol.

    This draft is also pretty loaded at offensive tackle, so hopefully we don't wait too long to draft a replacement for Kalil. Center might be a good idea too, with Sully's age creeping up on us.

  5. #5
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    So to reinforce your point that the WRs are pretty unimpressive this year ... Treadwell ends up running a 4.63 sec 40 at his Pro Day. I guess if he ran a 4.50 40 then there would be no chance he would be available to the Vikings at 23. But because he ran a somewhat disappointing 40 he might now be available, but I'm not sure I want him. The analysts talk about him being a big WR that can go and get the ball ... he's 6'2" and his vertical jump was only 33". If you're going to run a 4.6 40 then you better have size like Kelvin Benjamin.

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