Offensive line looked just fine

Anthony Herrera returned to the lineup and the Vikings mixed up their approach to blocking with great effectiveness Saturday night. Using a variety of formations and blocking schemes, the offensive line looked as good as it has in quite some time. The players and coach react.

The Vikings' offensive line didn't start training camp as a feared unit. Instead, fans and observers feared the worst for it, especially after the release of left tackle Bryant McKinnie and the struggles of his replacement, Charlie Johnson, to hold back defensive end Jared Allen.

One month and three preseason games later, with the component parts starting to come together, that offensive line isn't looking so bad.

"I was really impressed with a lot of things they did. We'll watch the tape to verify some things, but it seems like we were a cohesive unit," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after Saturday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the most important game of the preseason. "We did a good job of opening up some holes, staying on our blocks."

That applies to nearly everybody on the first-team offensive line, Johnson included. McNabb was sacked once and was hurried one other time by a Dallas starter, outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, in six drives.

While the pass protection was pretty solid most of the night, the run blocking may have been even better. Adrian Peterson averaged 5.8 yards per attempt on 14 rushes, finishing the night with 81 rushing yards, the second-highest total for him in a preseason game.

"I felt good. One thing we harped on was establishing our offensive line and being physical. Those guys came out [Saturday] and we did that," Peterson said. "… Guys came off the ball hard. You know, we are really trying to get this running game going. With them blocking well, it is my job to get the running game going."

With a mix of zone and man blocking, the offensive line provided some good space for Peterson and the rest of the running backs, and it left the offensive linemen feeling good about their performance.

"It's probably a combination of a lot of things, one being a product of the system. Another being the offensive line and the backs are on the same page," guard Steve Hutchinson said. "I think we're making a point of being able to run the ball and be a good running team."

It started early, too. Five of the Vikings' seven plays in their first drive were runs by Peterson. On the first play, the Vikings came out with a three-tight end set and Peterson ran 4 yards. One play later, center John Sullivan sealed off his defender and guard Anthony Herrera pulled to open a bigger running lane for Peterson on a 9-yard gain. Sullivan was equally as effective on the next play. The Vikings continued to mix it up, sometimes going with three tight ends, sometimes zone blocking, sometimes pulling Hutchinson or Herrera. By the time their first drive was done, they had a touchdown on a play-action pass to Bernard Berrian and Peterson had rushed five times for 27 yards.

"[Offensive coordinator Bill] Musgrave, you've got to give it to him. He knows how to call plays and he's got a lot of knowledge," Herrera said. "He did a great job putting us in the right situations. We've just got to go out there and execute."

Throughout the first-team offense's six series of work, it was one positive play after another for the running game. Sullivan was sealing off his defender, often imposing nose tackle Jay Ratliff, and Hutchinson and Herrera were leading Peterson into some solid running lanes.

Herrera was making his first appearance of the year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Nov. 21, and his return to the lineup may have finally put the season-opening starting offensive line on the field together for the first time.

"I think everything went well. It wasn't that much of a drop-off. There's always things I can get better at with the limited amount of reps I had, but working in the right direction. Everything feels great," said Herrera, who played four series in his initial action.

"I'm pretty close. Just the limited reps are kind of hindering me as far as cohesiveness with Sully and Phil [Loadholt]. I feel pretty well and I'll get there soon."

The performance of the first-team offensive line left new line coach Jeff Davidson feeling pretty good about the dress rehearsal for the regular season. He said Dallas' 3-4 defensive front provided some special challenges for offensive line, but overall he liked what he saw as he left the Metrodome Saturday night.

So did Frazier.

"It seems as if we are coming together as a unit. We were good in protection, we were good in our run game, which we really emphasize being able to run the ball and establish the run," Frazier said. "I thought our offensive line really bought into that and if that's the case over the course of this year, we're going to be in pretty good shape."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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While the pass protection was pretty solid most of the night, the run blocking may have been even better. Adrian Peterson averaged 5.8 yards per attempt on 14 rushes, finishing the night with 81 rushing yards, the second-highest total for him in a preseason game. \"I felt good. One thing we harped on was establishing our offensive line and being physical. Those guys came out [Saturday] and we did that,\" Peterson said. \"… Guys came off the ball hard. You know, we are really trying to get this running game going. With them blocking well, it is my job to get the running game going.\" With a mix of zone and man blocking, the offensive line provided some good space for Peterson and the rest of the running backs, and it left the offensive linemen feeling good about their performance. \"It's probably a combination of a lot of things, one being a product of the system. Another being the offensive line and the backs are on the same page,\" guard Steve Hutchinson said. \"I think we're making a point of being able to run the ball and be a good running team.\" It started early, too. Five of the Vikings' seven plays in their first drive were runs by Peterson. On the first play, the Vikings came out with a three-tight end set and Peterson ran 4 yards. One play later, center John Sullivan sealed off his defender and guard Anthony Herrera pulled to open a bigger running lane for Peterson on a 9-yard gain. Sullivan was equally as effective on the next play. The Vikings continued to mix it up, sometimes going with three tight ends, sometimes zone blocking, sometimes pulling Hutchinson or Herrera. By the time their first drive was done, they had a touchdown on a play-action pass to Bernard Berrian and Peterson had rushed five times for 27 yards. \"[Offensive coordinator Bill] Musgrave, you've got to give it to him. 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