Rookie's toughest test: Kalil vs. ‘a beast'

Matt Kalil has been with the Vikings for 10 organized team activities before this week, but now he gets to face Jared Allen in the mandatory minicamp. Kalil reflected on his first day against Allen and how it will make the left tackle better over time.

Practices just got a lot more interesting for first-round draft pick Matt Kalil, the No. 4 overall selection of the Minnesota Vikings in April.

For the previous three weeks of organized team activities at Winter Park, he was facing defensive ends looking for a contributing role. The competition ratcheted up significantly on Tuesday when Jared Allen, the defending NFL sacks leader, joined the team for mandatory minicamp.

"It's a good thing I'm going against the best D-end in the league. The games will be a lot easier," Kalil said.

Kalil was coming off his first practice against Allen, and it didn't help that temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity. The combination of weather and All-Pro competition across from him left the 6-foot-7, 308-pounder "a little gassed" and hoping for improved stamina on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite being worn down after a long, hot practice, he was still well aware of Allen's credentials.

"He's a starter, Pro Bowler, leading sack leader," Kalil said of Allen. "… He's going to make me a better player and I'm glad he's on the same team as me."

Although Allen beat him on occasion, Kalil generally held his own given the circumstances and facing Allen for the first time. He also pointed out one advantage that Allen had – no shoulder pads for Kalil or other offensive linemen to strike with a jarring hand punch.

"That's a lot easier for the defensive guy – there's no shoulder pads to hit (for the offensive lineman). Regardless, Jared Allen is a beast," Kalil said.

"He's the best defensive end in the NFL. I don't think I've gone against anything like that."

Still, Kalil has been tested since an early age. When he was young, he would go to a park in California with his dad and brother to "play football." But, Kalil said, there was very little throwing of the ball. For his dad, Frank, playing football with his big boys, Matt and Ryan, meant working on kick steps.

Frank was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 and played for two USFL teams. Ryan is now a Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers. Matt could be on his way to his own elite status if he lives up to the No. 4 draft billing given to him by the Vikings.

First, however, he is focusing on the details.

"I have (the plays) down pretty much now. Since I have that down, it's about focusing on my fundamentals and my technique and it makes me become a lot better player," Kalil said. "Playing fast, I'm not worried about the plays, but my technique to make me a better player."

Kalil said offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who also coached Ryan with the Carolina Panthers and played in the NFL himself, hasn't tried to change Matt's technique too much.

"I think that's what made me the player I am, how I played at SC, but there's always something I can work on and get better at – just little things here and there, footwork and fundamentals and all that."

From here on out, there won't be many breaks in practice. At times, Kalil will face the backups, like a few times he engulfed reserve defensive end Nick Reed, but for the most part the Vikings' new left tackle will have the privilege of facing Allen in practice.

Eventually, the constant quick-twitch moves of Allen will help Kalil when facing the other pass-rushers of the NFC North, like the Packers' Clay Matthews or the Bears' Julius Peppers. In due time, Kalil will get around to studying his game-day competition. For now, however, his task remains Allen and focusing on his own techniques.

"It's not about (other competition) right now. It's about the offseason and focusing on my plays and everything I need to become a better player," Kalil said. "When it comes time for me to study somebody else, I will."

Right now, he's just a little preoccupied with the "beast" across from him in practice.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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Despite being worn down after a long, hot practice, he was still well aware of Allen's credentials. \"He's a starter, Pro Bowler, leading sack leader,\" Kalil said of Allen. \"… He's going to make me a better player and I'm glad he's on the same team as me.\" Although Allen beat him on occasion, Kalil generally held his own given the circumstances and facing Allen for the first time. He also pointed out one advantage that Allen had – no shoulder pads for Kalil or other offensive linemen to strike with a jarring hand punch. \"That's a lot easier for the defensive guy – there's no shoulder pads to hit (for the offensive lineman). Regardless, Jared Allen is a beast,\" Kalil said. \"He's the best defensive end in the NFL. I don't think I've gone against anything like that.\" Still, Kalil has been tested since an early age. When he was young, he would go to a park in California with his dad and brother to \"play football.\" But, Kalil said, there was very little throwing of the ball. 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Since I have that down, it's about focusing on my fundamentals and my technique and it makes me become a lot better player,\" Kalil said. \"Playing fast, I'm not worried about the plays, but my technique to make me a better player.\" Kalil said offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who also coached Ryan with the Carolina Panthers and played in the NFL himself, hasn't tried to change Matt's technique too much. \"I think that's what made me the player I am, how I played at SC, but there's always something I can work on and get better at – just little things here and there, footwork and fundamentals and all that.\" From here on out, there won't be many breaks in practice. At times, Kalil will face the backups, like a few times he engulfed reserve defensive end Nick Reed, but for the most part the Vikings' new left tackle will have the privilege of facing Allen in practice. 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