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No need for panic over the Vikings’ offensive line after one preseason game

Oct 31, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Joe Berger (61) takes the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

We all know that preseason results mean nothing. We all know that most of the things that happen with the first-team offense and first-team defense mean nothing. But every year, we make all sorts of judgements about the upcoming year based on a handful of snaps with starters going half speed.

There is no better example of how meaningless the preseason is to starters than Sam Bradford’s first four games. He played zero snaps in preseason with the Vikings, but beat the Green Bay Packers on national TV in his debut.

So why would we make judgements about the Vikings’ offensive line based on a few series’ against the Buffalo Bills?

Sure, the trauma of watching Bradford get slammed to the ground over and over last season is still lingering. And if one of the starting O-linemen cuts himself shaving, it acts as a reminder that the Vikings lost every starter at one point or another in 2016 – including both tackles going down for the year by Week 3.

But Mike Remmers’ whiff against the Bills shouldn’t be seen as a red flashing sign that the Vikings’ season will be undone by poor blocking.

When we pull back to the 20,000-foot view, it’s easy to see how much the offensive line has been improved – even from the non-injured 2016 version.

Riley Reiff hasn’t practiced much yet as a Viking and didn’t play on Thursday night, but the former Detroit Lion has 27 days to get healthy. When he does, Reiff will look like Orlando Pace compared to what the Vikings ran out last season. He isn’t a dominant pass protector, but he also won’t be giving away free shots to every edge rusher. Powerful defensive ends can drive Reiff back into the quarterback, but they won’t fly around him without being touched.

In the run game, Reiff will be a massive upgrade. While it was obvious that TJ Clemmings couldn’t protect against the pass, the part about his struggles was that went less noticed was ranking among the worst run blockers in the NFL, too. Reiff, on the other hand, has rated above average in run blocking by Pro Football Focus standards.

If the Vikings had only added Reiff, they’d be substantially better.

While Remmers was the goat (in a bad way) of Game 1 of the preseason, he is an improvement over Andre Smith and Jeremiah Sirles. On a six-yard run by Dalvin Cook, Remmers drove his man back five yards. That didn’t happen often at right tackle last season.

And if either tackle gets hurt, Rashod Hill has shown in practice and in Week 17 last year that he can fill in capably. No backup tackle is going to be a stud, but he won’t pour gasoline all over the offense and burn it to the ground as the second-stringers up front did last year.

On the inside, Mike Zimmer said rookie Pat Elflein played, “very, very well.” There’s a possibility that he will win the starting job over Nick Easton, who now has NFL experience as opposed to being thrown to the wolves last season.

Of course, there are reasonable criticisms. You have to wonder if we’ll look back and wonder if the Vikings should have added a veteran backup lineman instead of asking Hill to carry the load in case of emergency.

Or, we might as if it was wise to count on Joe Berger to be as good as he was last year at 36 years old – though Elflein was a better guard than center in college.

There’s a saying that applies here: Don’t let perfect get in the way of better. Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings’ offensive line in the middle of the pack heading into this year. That’s better. By a lot.

There’s also a saying – or at least it should be one: Don’t trust what you see in preseason.

  • linus

    It’s hard for me to understand how Reiff can excel as a run blocker if he can be overpowered in pass protection. I’m not disagreeing with the analysis; it just seems odd.

    • droopy

      Good question. Stepping back to pass protect is a completely different beast to driving a guy away in a zone or power run scheme. Totally different technique and situation. Pass Pro is akin to a defensive posture. Run blocking is an offensive posture.

  • brian199511

    If Clemmings or Beavers even make the team it shows the Vikings have no depth on OL and maybe a bit of panic is warranted.

    • cka2nd

      Or that they have both responded to coaching and improved as players.

      Maybe.

      • brian199511

        It would be nice but if you are the worst at your position in the NFL that is hard to recover from, even as a backup.

        • linus

          Most players get better… sometimes a LOT better… after a year or two in the league, especially if they’ve had to change positions (Clemmings) or spent their college career in a non-Power 5 conference (Beavers). Tom Johnson wasn’t even good enough to land on an NFL practice squad for SIX YEARS after leaving college, and Joe Berger played in just 4 games (starting none) during his first four NFL seasons.

          That said, I don’t have much hope for Clemmings anymore, but Zimmer has said some good things about Beavers.

    • Clemmings would make a good backup guard.

      • brian199511

        He hasn’t shown that to date. I hope you are right but don’t believe so.

        • He was playing out of position last year, that’s the main reason he sucked.

      • linus

        Unfortunately, I think it’s too late for it to happen with the Vikings. It’s too bad really. He was a defensive lineman for all but his last two years in college, so he really needed at least a year, probably two, to develop on the practice squad or at the very bottom of the roster. Injuries forced him to play too soon and at the wrong position.

    • Carl Brodin

      I liked what I seen out of Beavers and Isadora in the future we have the makings of the right side of our oline

      • brian199511

        I agree on Isadora but Beavers is going to have to really show us something as a backup guard. He certainly isn’t a tackle and that is where we need more depth.

        • Carl Brodin

          I’m sorry you miss understood I meant I like from beavers at RT in the future.

          • brian199511

            Yeah, just not seeing it. Hope you are right. Ain’t happening as he was a terrible pick. Lions took Joe Dahl after Vikings took Beavers and he can play. Beavers is crap.

  • Gordon Guffey

    I’m going to trust the coaches and Spielman on this one ~ They didn’t game pan for the Bills and if you look at the scores from the preseason so fan then we will see there were teams that won now but wouldn’tshouldn’t if these games counted ~
    I totally agree with this report ~ Over on vikings.com ((( somewhere in the last 4 days ))) they posted a report where the Vikings made it clear they were looking at different things from different players ~ And that they plan to game plan a little more this week ~ So we will see soon enough if they game plan this week or not ~

    • David Prestin

      Last I saw Zimm said they won’t be game planning for Seattle either. More about seeing the guys executing better.

      • Gordon Guffey

        Thanks for the update David ~ !!!

      • Jordan Musser

        Game planning or not, offense was on repeat from last season. Line still looks atrocious granted it’s only the first preseason game but I saw a lot of olaying out there.

    • sandbun

      Does that include trusting Zimmer when he came out at halftime and said that he didn’t see much of anything he liked?

      • Gordon Guffey

        Well we both know there is going to be come coach talk LOL ~ But I did believe it in this case ~ He is wanting to smash mouth football ~ I dont believe he saw that ~ However after he reviewed the tape his tone changed ~ So yeah I believe what he was saying fit somewhere in the middle ~

  • linus

    I’ll acknowledge that it’s just the first game of the preseason, and I’m not sure who was lining up across from him, but Elflein seemed to generate a good push. So if he can fix his issues with the shotgun snap, I think an interior trio of Boone, Elflein, and Berger could be pretty good.

    • cka2nd

      I just wish Boone’s bite matched his bark.

      • Jordan Musser

        I agree- he sucks on the field

    • Carl Brodin

      I say cut Bone put Berger at LG Elflein at C Isadora at RG.

  • Mark L

    Sign kapp as a backup and you don’t have to worry as much when Bradford goes down then we can run the wild cat/ wing tee that sparano thinks is awesome and watch the Super Bowl from the 70 degree comfort of our homes.

    There’s a lot of holes on this team ENJOY the season it’ll be better than last year and next year we’ll have new guys to complain about.

    • cka2nd

      For a second there I thought you were talking about Joe Kapp…

      I don’t think there are “a lot of holes” on this team. Questions that this season may go a long way to answering – Will a legit #1 receiver please stand up? Are Thielen and Treadwell the real deal or a one-hit wonder and bust, respectively? Do we have the players on the roster who can play 3-tech DT and WLB? Who will be the starting guards next year? – but besides maybe WLB, I don’t see any out-and-out holes.

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      • Mark L

        I don’t know a qb who’s made more money than impact.
        WR’s that seem good in a bad year (prove it year)
        Non existent run game so far.
        Ok offensive line
        (bad guards that won’t be here next year)
        Defense that runs out of energy by week five.
        No real depth on the team anywhere to speak of.

        • Corey Hyde

          Our D-Line might have the most depth of any position group in the entire NFL. We are going to end up cutting guys that would play on other teams. Our offensive line is terrible, I’ll give you that. I appreciate the optimism of this article, but shit is shit and our OL is just that. Dalvin Cook can have all the talent in the world and so can Sam Bradford (which he does) and Stephon Diggs. It doesn’t matter when your OL is shit.

        • Carl Brodin

          Berger is not a bad OG. I agree if your talking about Bone he sucks. Who knows maybe he gets cut this year.

      • Jordan Musser

        There are 5 holes -LT, LG, C, RG and RT

        • Carl Brodin

          Your goofy in the head for one thing at RG maybe this year or next Isadora starting that position is set. Remmers/ Beavers this year maybe Remmers /Isadora or they move Isadora over to LG or Easton at LG Elflein C Reiff at LT. Keen becomes the first back up off the bench for the three interior positions of the Oline. See we have a oline.

          • Carl Brodin

            Kern

          • Jordan Musser

            As highly regarded as Isadora is he still has not played in a regular season game. You may be heading in the right direction with Eiflein. The center is the captain of the line and the line played much better once he replaced Easton. We all know Easton did an okay job blocking as a center last year but maybe his lack of communication or leadership across the line caused the rest of the line to falter. Would like to see Eiflein start both this week and next so he can play with starters and see how they gel. If it gets bad we already know what we have with Easton.

  • Noel Iverson

    Didn’t we play Seattle last years preseason and Blair Walsh shanked a field goal or extra point? I just remember Pete Carol grinning ear to ear with that frog smile. I hope we beat them, even in preseason.

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  • Talltales08

    I have to disagree, after last seasons cluster-“f”, we need to panic.
    .

  • PurpleFaithful

    Maybe Hill should start and not remmers

    • Carl Brodin

      Hill would be a option but Beavers would be another option.

      • PurpleFaithful

        Guotcha





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