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Letting Matt Kalil walk was a game changer for Vikings

Over a long season, there is never one event or decision that can be credited or blamed with the year’s outcome, but if you were ranking reasons that the Minnesota Vikings’ season has gone much better this year than last, you would put the decision to sign Riley Reiff and let Matt Kalil leave in free agency at the top of the list.

Shortly after Kalil signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, he made comments insinuating the Vikings’ offensive line coaches had not pushed him hard enough.

“(Matsko) is the first guy I’ve played for that kind of demands excellence from his offensive line room,” Kalil told the Charlotte Observer.

But that excellence hasn’t shown up on the field this year as Pro Football Focus ranks Kalil 44th of 56 qualifying tackles in pass blocking. They have graded him positively in just three of 13 games. Cam Newton has been sacked 28 times this season. In Carolina’s key matchup with the New Orleans Saints, the 2012 No. 4 overall pick committed two key penalties

Meanwhile Reiff just gave up his first sack of the season on Sunday against Atlanta (and head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that the sack wasn’t entirely on Reiff). Case Keenum has been sacked just nine times total.

After signing Reiff this offseason, the Vikings quickly named Reiff and captain and his leadership paid dividends with less experienced players like center Pat Elflein and tackle Rashod Hill, who has been asked to play in place of Mike Remmers.

“Personally, if I ever need help with anything, I can always depend on Riley,” Hill said earlier this year. “He talks when he wants to, when he can, but most of all Riley’s a leader. He’s in the facility before anybody. I try to get here early and Riley beats me here.”

Reiff has also been at the center of the Vikings’ offensive line forming its own identity. They have become known for their mobility and toughness.

“That’s a tight knit group over there,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I really like the demeanor that they play with….I think that’s a lot of it. And ya know, you don’t have to be a rah rah guy to be a leader.  You have to be able to do your job and people respect you and do what you say you’re going to do. That’s usually the litmus test.”

If you Google search Kalil, you will find the same stories you would have over the past three years. For several weeks, he was good and “finally figuring it out,” then the wheels came off again. With a Vikings team whose offense hinges on having every player show up on a weekly basis, that type of inconsistency could have been costly.

Instead the Vikings have one of their most valuable players in Reiff. It’s safe to say they made a future-shaping decision signing the former Lion.

  • Cman

    Kalil was addition by subtraction. Reiff didn’t come here with high praise, but he has more than surpassed his expectations.

    Remmers has been so so when in there, but I think Hill has earned that starting RT spot. Remmers will need to either have to earn that spot back next year in training camp, or accept being a backup.

    Easton has made a smooth transition to LG, and Elflein has not looked like a rookie at all, and will only get better. Keep this OL in place as long as possible and this team only gets better.

    Skol

    • Drediock

      As was Clemmings.
      I felt last year that with the way he played if Clemmings had any honor what so ever. He’d have performed Seppuku

      • Wilbur One

        I wanted to try “Seppuku”, but I didn’t have the guts.

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      • Cman

        Haha, yep. Glad they got rid of that dead weight as well. Next up is Sirles.

        • cka2nd

          Remmers is actually leading Reiff and Hill in PFF grading.

          • Cman

            I can’t see how, Reiff just gave up his first sack against Atlanta. Hill imo hasn’t missed a step with Remmers out.

        • Barry Jon Smith

          WTF!! sirles is a competent back-up. maybe you’re thinking about sirles last year and he did look kind of lost. but the whole O-line looked lost last year

          • Cman

            He was completely lost last year, and serviceable this year. There is a reason why a rookie (elflein) and a guy signed off another teams PS (Hill) and Easton are starting over him. If he has to come in for a few plays, or fill in for a game or two, fine. If Berger or Easton went down for they year and Sirles had to start, our OL wouldn’t be as strong.

          • Barry Jon Smith

            completely true! not a starter but a competent back-up

      • Jeeves

        I felt bad for Clemmings though. At least he was trying. Strange circumstances and not as much God given talent as others. Kalil was underperforming.

  • JJ

    the best decision was to get rid of Boone.

    • Kevanyon

      Anybody know where Boone is ranked? I liked him but apparently he didn’t mesh well with the rest of the locker room personality. Give Zim some credit for noticing that and eliminating the problem.

      • cka2nd

        I know he had a few good games with Arizona, as per PFF, but I haven’t seen any scores for him lately.

  • Louis

    Best Viking off-season I can ever remember.

  • cka2nd

    Kalil’s comments about his offensive line coaches here really pissed me off. Both Jeff Davidson and Tony Sparano have had real success developing offensive lines and linemen, here and elsewhere, so Kalil was, as usual, deflecting responsibility from himself. Oh, and which two teams have allowed the fewest sacks so far this season? The Chargers and Vikings, one and two, with their offensive lines coached by Davidson and Sparano, respectively.

    • Chris Mahoney

      That’s best said.. kalil deflecting responsibility. Its easy to start a season with a new team and say the old team was the problem. But saying didn’t demand excellence?!? As a professional you should always demand excellence from yourself. I play pickup basketball and get on myself each week for the little things I did wrong. I demand excellence from my own self with my own inner competition (I’m in my 30s, overweight – playing pickup).

      I feel sorry for the Panthers, Im not sure if his brother was whispering in their ears. Or that coupled with the idea playing with his brother would elevate his game. Kalil is great on paper but doesn’t have “it”. Hmm, reminds me of Case (as he said, on paper he wont win but he has that drive) Case has “it”.

  • Jeeves

    What about all the others that the VIkings let walk? Is there anyone out there having a decent season? None come to mind right off the bat. (Anyone know how the Cpt. is doing?) It seems they made a lot of good decisions.

  • Maurice Becker

    Kalil was a turnstyle. I think, if we can get one top shelf guard in next year’s draft, we’ll solidify our O-line for years to come. Already night and day compared to what we fielded last year.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Signing Reiff and even Remmers were both great moves as keeping Hill on the active roster ~ Draft Elflein was just as smart though I’m sure a few fans still want to blame Spielman and Zimmer to a degree for the bad drafting of OL before this season started a turn around with Pat Shurmur taking over as the OC and letting him rebuild a lot of the offensive coaching staff ~ Now Spielman and Zimmer had already started picking up talent in Easton~Hill and maybe even Isidora who didn’t look out of place filling in 3 games for Easton ~ Sirles has been good when called on ~ They have keep Aviante Collins who is another undrafted FA on the active roster ~

    What do all of these players have in common ~ They either didn’t get to see the playing field or they did become Vikings until after Norv Turner and some of his holdovers left the Vikings coaching staff ~ Yeah kind of makes it simple ~ Add in the fact that two of Norv’s hand picked OL drafted in the 4 round have been let go and have done little to nothing elsewhere since then ~

  • styx rogan

    U can blame the hole thing on Kahill…. Boon was a buffoon, Cleming sucked and Berger sucked two





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