The perception is that the Vikings offensive line had been an underachieving group of late. Players have heard that perception and so have coaches.
This year, however, in addition to a new offensive coordinator, the Vikings have a new offensive line coach that is used to seeing success in a running game. Jeff Davidson comes from the Carolina Panthers, where in 2009 Jonathan Stewart rushed for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 5.1-yard average and DeAngelo Williams had 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns with a 5.2-yard average.
Davidson is careful not to disrespect the philosophies of the Vikings' past and won't even compare what he'll be teaching to what the linemen have been taught in the past. He does have a general philosophy that won't surprise anyone.
"Not in comparing years past, I want us to have a hard-nose attitude, to play tough, Minnesota Viking football," Davidson said.
"I'm not into comparing schemes and that type of thing. I just know that what we're about going forward is hard work, discipline and everybody being on the same page. Hopefully we do a nice job with communicating and playing tough Viking football."
Davidson hasn't had a chance to work with any of the linemen yet because of the NFL lockout that prohibits coaches from having contact with players, much less leading practices. But, while the line up front under Brad Childress' offense was considered to be primarily a zone-blocking scheme – they also mixed in man-blocking concepts – Davidson said he and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will use a variety of blocking schemes.
"Hopefully, we have a number of different schemes that we're using. I'm not going to walk in here and say, ‘Hey, I'm just a zone-scheme guy or just a man-scheme guy.' We have really what we consider four different schemes – man schemes, draw schemes and zone schemes and then what we would call our [gap] schemes. Hopefully we employ all four of those."
Davidson isn't the first assistant to mention it, but a collaborative effort among the coaching staff seems to be an emerging theme under Musgrave's offensive direction.
"It's Bill's offense. Ultimately, what I think Bill's about, though, is he likes input, he likes all of us to have our hand in things," Davidson said. "Hopefully we have a lot of time to work together. We're still learning each other. Ultimately, I think he's a lot like me. We like to be our football and what we like to do instead of what he likes to do our what I like to do."
Davidson said he had a chance to talk to all of his offensive linemen during the brief respite from the lockout during the draft, although he didn't get into detailed schemes or how some of them were recovering from injuries. That meant he had no update on how guard Anthony Herrera was progressing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that landed him on injured reserve last year, but Davidson did say, "Hopefully he's ready to go because I love the way he plays the game."
While the linemen will certainly be adjusting to a new position coach and likely new techniques and schemes, Davidson seems to have confidence that center John Sullivan can handle the calls for the line.
"From what I understand, he's a smart guy. I would say I'm not going to try to be real complicated with it," Davidson said. "I think that the simpler we make schemes, the quicker you can make decisions and the faster you play."
That appears to be the over-riding theme of the offense in general, and it may need to continue with a compressed period to put the new concepts into action.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
OL coach Jeff Davidson blocking out the past
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