The best thing that can be said about Chris DeGeare is that he has been relatively anonymous the last two weeks. For a lot of players, being anonymous is a bad thing. For an offensive lineman, it means he is doing his job.
DeGeare took over for Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson two weeks ago in the Vikings starting lineup at left guard and has been holding up his end. He hasn't had his name announced by the referees for committing a penalty and has graded out well in both run blocking and pass protection.
DeGeare said he has seen the improvement in his game from one week to the next and said the biggest aspect of his improvement has been that he is getting much more comfortable now that he is getting the lion's share of practice repetitions.
"I think the biggest thing is being in there for every rep at practice and seeing every look," DeGeare said. "Before Hutch went down, I was in for only a few reps here or there. You don't see everything that you're preparing for when you do it that way. Now, I'm preparing and seeing all the looks."
Interim head coach Leslie Frazier has seen some of DeGeare's progress.
"He's gotten better, and there have been some moments where he's struggled, which we thought he would begin a young guy and playing as much as he's had to play," Frazier said. "Overall, we've seen some consistency. We've seen him not back down to some situations and we need him to just get better as time has gone by."
The ascent into the starting lineup for a rookie could often lead to a little complacency. The fight to get to the starting job is what motivated him, but the question lingered as to whether it would continue once he achieved his goal. To his credit, DeGeare said that not only is he getting more time on the practice field, he's spending additional hours in the video library studying opponents and their tendencies.
"As far as preparing goes, I'm watching a lot more film," DeGeare said. "I'm trying to communicate more with (left tackle Bryant McKinnie) to make sure I know what we're doing on certain plays. Preparation has definitely picked up since I know that I have a starting role."
With the valuable experience he is gaining, DeGeare said he finally feels like a full-fledged member of the team. Prior to the Giants game, he had only been active for two of the Vikings' first 12 games. He said that getting into the action and returning to normal – he has been a full-time starter since his Pop Warner days – has brought his game to a higher level. He sees the difference in his game in the last few weeks.
"I'm feeling a lot better and it's coming a lot more natural," DeGeare said. "I can see the difference myself. I feel more comfortable out there and think I've made a lot of progress over the last month."
His maturation as a pro player is coming at a time when the Vikings are in a downward turn. But the education he is getting in the final month of the season will help both him and the organization and he said he can notice that the game is slowing down for him and he is able to play at a higher level now than he did just two weeks ago.
"I'd say there is a huge difference from where I am now and where I was against the Giants a couple of weeks ago," DeGeare said. "When I look back at the New York game, I can see where I made a lot of improvement from that game to the Chicago game and I expect to see more improvement this week over last week."
DeGeare realizes that, as long as Hutchinson is a Viking, the starting left guard job is his. But, he added that from the day he arrived at Winter Park following the draft, his hope was to contribute in any way possible. With Hutch on injured reserve, he said he is making the most of his opportunity.
"That's why the Vikings drafted me," DeGeare said. "I just want to make a contribution wherever I can. It's impossible to replace a Steve Hutchinson, because he is a Hall of Famer at guard. I'm not trying to replace him, I'm just trying to help my team and keep the left guard position one that is a strength on the team. There's still room for improvement, but I think I'm headed in the right direction."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
DeGeare seeing progress with repetition
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