Offensive Line Key to Winning

What more could the Vikings expect from an offensive line that made the team the NFL's best rushing offense last year? A lot more, if you listen to Vikings players and coaches.

What the Vikings were able to accomplish last year in the run offense was nothing short of astounding. The team led the NFL in rushing, despite having an offensive line that was often held together with tape, gum and glue early in the season.

With the protracted holdout of Bryant McKinnie, the death of Lewis Kelly's wife and unborn child and injuries to several players, the Vikings had a patchwork offensive line that somehow found a way to thrive.

So what will it do for an encore? Get better...a lot better.

By season's end, the Vikings may be viewed as one of the best offensive lines in the league. With depth and versatility, the Vikings have all the ingredients to have one of the best unit grades for OLs in the league. The signing of Mike Rosenthal gives the Vikings a veteran right tackle and allows the team to move Chris Liwienski back to his natural left guard position. Add to that McKinnie being around all season and Matt Birk steadying the middle of the line and the Vikings could have four potential Pro Bowlers (or Pro Bowl-caliber players) up front.

If the offensive line can avoid injuries this year, it could be the quiet key to Vikings success in 2003.

* The one name not mentioned in the offensive line analysis was David Dixon. He continues to battle weight problems and injuries. While he is entering training camp as the starter, Kelly is being groomed to replace him and will likely do so by 2004.
* VU continues to hear quiet rumblings that if WR Antonio Freeman remains on the free agent market much longer, the Vikings may consider signing him to battle with Derrick Alexander for the veteran receiver role with the team. Last summer, Tice threatened to sign Freeman when talks with Alexander stalled. The move got Alexander off square one and he signed within a couple of days. For the record, Freeman continues to shop himself around -- he's in Jacksonville this weekend -- and no formal contact has been made yet by the Vikings.
* Former Viking Tyrone Carter looked very solid in the Jets minicamp and our sources in New York say he has a very good chance of sticking with the team.
* The Packers took another hit last week when Hardy Nickerson announced his retirement, depleting even more defensive depth for the Pack. We feel for you, guys. Really.
* VU would like to wish all dads out there a happy Father's Day and a restful day on the hammock.

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