You don’t have to look very for evidence that Nick Easton was a valuable offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings last season.
When he missed both playoff games due to an ankle injury, the Vikings’ offensive line struggled. On Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Easton will now miss the 2018 season following neck surgery.
It won’t be easy for the Vikings to fill the hole left by the 26-year-old left guard.
“He’s a tough guy that does a great job of finding a way to get his job done, that’s the best way to say it,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s very athletic. He doesn’t give them the same thing twice. Cut them, stay up high, he might grab them once in awhile. That’s how he plays.”
Easton won the starting job inlast year’s camp, in part because he was a better scheme fit than Alex Boone.
“Nick is a smart player, he’s like a gnat, you can’t get rid of him, he’s always going to be on your backside even if you beat him,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said Wednesday. “Having a guy like that on your team…he brings a lot to this team. A lot of people respect him because he’s a smaller guy but he has a big heart, he will fight you to the end.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Easton did not allow a sack last season and only gave up three QB hits and nine hurries.
The Vikings will likely look to either Tom Compton or Danny Isidora to replace Easton. It’s unclear whether the Vikings would look to the free agent market where veterans Jahri Evans and Luke Joeckel have still not yet found homes.
“We’re looking at al free agent areas really,” Zimmer said. “That’s what those guy do in here at night. They come in here and watch other teams, they watch guys on the street.”
On Thursday Zimmer announced Easton to Injured Reserve, but his message was, more or less, to R-E-L-A-X.
“I know everybody is nervous about the offensive line, but I like the mentality of those guys,” Zimmer said. “I like how they work. I’ve been around them quite a bit. They’re going to figure out a way to get it done. Calm is the mood.”