A backup tackle versus Ryan Kerrigan wouldn’t normally be a recipe for offensive success.
Kerrigan ranks fifth, right behind Everson Griffen, among pass rushers with the most sacks in the NFL over the past four seasons. Prior to the Vikings’ matchup with Washington, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was effusive in his praise for Kerrigan, lauding his work ethic, saying, “he never takes a play off.”
On Sunday, Kerrigan was a ghost against backup tackle Rashod Hill. According to Pro Football Focus tracking stats, Hill allowed zero quarterback pressures.
“He’s quick off the ball,” Hill said of Kerrigan. “He’s a smart guy. You gotta be ready to get your hands on him because he’s not only quick but powerful too. There was one play he came in with a long-arm bull[rush] and I really felt it.”
The Vikings signed Hill last season off Jacksonville’s practice squad. He played in one game – Week 17 against the Bears – and performed well enough to convince the team he was deserving of the No. 3 tackle spot. In training camp, he got valuable work as the starting left tackle in practice and preseason while Riley Reiff was out.
His strong play in pass protection is becoming a trend. Against the Cleveland Browns, starter Mike Remmers went down with a concussion early in the game. Hill came in and allowed just one pressure, per PFF stats.
”My comfort level was good having a week to prepare,” Hill said. “In Cleveland I didn’t know I’d be playing right [tackle], but unfortunately I happened to be playing right. Having a week to prepare for [Washington], it was a good week, we did our job.”
Following the win over Cleveland, Zimmer noted some issues with Hill’s run blocking, but said this week they had focused on it during practice.
At least on one key play, Hill’s run blocking was strong. Following a Kirk Cousins interception, Latavius Murray picked up 13 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass by Case Keenum.
“Zim and Tony [Sparano] told me to work on my run blocking, so that’s what I’m going to do every day,” Hill said. “That’s what he really emphasized. Technique, technique, technique technique. That’s all Zim was telling me every day. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on with run blocking, bringing my hips and trying to finish guys.”
Below you can see the hole created on the right side.
It’s hard not to compare this season to the Vikings’ 2016 issues with depth. If Hill has to play for a long period of time as Mike Remmers recovers from a concussion, it appears the Vikings won’t see a significant drop off.
“Tony Sparano, our O-line coach, he always tells me, ‘use your length, you’re long, you’re big guy, don’t let them get in your personal space,” Hill said. “I know if you’re close by me, I’m gonna shoot my hands and not let you get in my chest. That’s what most defensive guys want to do, get in your chest.”
Hill noted that he’s focusing on the mentality of playing the game, picking things up from the toughness of the other Vikings’ offensive lineman.
”You want to get that last shove,” he said.
Last year, outside of a short period with Jake Long, their lack of depth at tackle made it difficult to work the ball downfield the way Keenum did against Washington and it crushed the Vikings’ running game. This year, when Reiff or Remmers has been out – and even Nick Easton for that matter – the Vikings haven’t skipped a beat.