Turner: O-line is most difficult position

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner said the offensive line is the hardest place to play in football because of the different pass rushes being thrown at the blockers.

Much of the focus over the last several weeks has been how new head coach Mike Zimmer is going to change the Vikings defense, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner has his own plans for making changes. However, one area that might remain largely the same is the five players the Vikings will line up along the offensive line – tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco and center John Sullivan.

Turner is getting his first chance to coach up the O-line so his experience to date has been largely watching them on film. From what he has seen, Turner is impressed.

“It’s a new system and we’re trying to get these guy ready to go win,” Turner said. “When you watch the offensive line when they’re playing at their best – at a high level – they’re good enough players to have success. That’s our most important thing – to get five guys to go play together as a unit and play with high-level consistency.”

With the ever-changing NFL, where an increase in the amount of passing that is done has created a greater need for speedy pass rushers, Turner believes the offensive line has become the most critical part of any offense, as well as the most difficult positions on the field.

“It’s becoming the hardest place in the league to play because the pass rush has become such a big deal,” Turner said. “The variety of schemes you see, that group really has to work together. I think (offensive line coach) Jeff Davidson does a fantastic job for us and I’m confident they’ll do a good job for us.”

While the conventional wisdom is that the Vikings have the luxury of all five starters returning, Turner isn’t conceding that he has his starting five in place. Just as Zimmer sent out the word to defensive players that every job is up grabs, that philosophy also pertains to the offensive line.

“One thing Coach Zimmer has stressed to everybody at every position is that there’s going to be great competition,” Turner said. “We’ve got a good group of young players that will be able to compete. Our goal when we get going and play on opening day that we have the best five guys playing. We have time to do that.”

With the five offensive linemen entering their third year as a unit, there is reason for confidence, but Turner is keeping his eye open for the younger talent that will be needed in the event of injury or potentially challenging an incumbent for a starting job in training camp and the preseason.

“Playing together helps, but in this league you have to be able to plug young players in,” Turner said. “If a young player steps up and is capable, that’s not going to be a deterrent to keep him from playing. But those five guys, I’m very confident they can play at a high level.”

Turner is pleased with what he has seen – both on tape and during the offseason workouts – from his offensive linemen, but there isn’t much that can be accomplished when players are in jerseys and shorts. The bigger impact for him will come when the players are fully suited up and ready to start hitting and translating his coaching scheme onto the field. That process is in its infancy right now and the next step will start Sunday in pads for the first time as the 2014 team.

“You go in stages,” Turner said. “Everything we’ve done to this point is to get ready to put the pads on. We’ll put the pads on tomorrow. To me, that’s when you get ready to go.”


  • Turner praised the efforts put forth by the City of Mankato and Minnesota State University as hosts of the Vikings training camp. He said it has been 10 years or so since he’s been at a training camp that wasn’t conducted at the team facility and is enjoying the old-school experience of getting away for training camp.

  • We had our first “I’m not a doctor” quote from Training Camp 2014, as Turner addressed the issue of when Cordarrelle Patterson will be able to come of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and get on the practice field. He was a practice observer again Saturday morning, but Turner said Patterson is champing at the bit to get on the practice field and hopes it will be sooner than later that he gets out there with his teammates.

  • On the subject of Adrian Peterson, Turner stressed that there are many things the Peterson does well, so they’re not going to force-feed things he doesn’t do as well and he won’t be used as a blocker to take on defensive ends or 280-pound outside linebackers because that shouldn’t be his job in the backfield.

  • Turner is excited about the upside for rookie running back Jerick McKinnon. He admits it will be a process because McKinnon never played running back in college, but he caught everyone’s attention how quickly he adjusted in the OTA/minicamp period and he’s hopeful the same sort of impression will be made once the team puts on pads and starts hitting.

  • Although he needed a little help to properly pronounce his last name, Turner said he has been as impressed with Matt Asiata as anyone on the offense during the OTAs and is looking forward to see how he can be utilized in the new Vikings offense.

  • On Teddy Bridgewater, Turner said that he has worked extremely hard since arriving in Minnesota and has yet to take a vacation. He will be running different types of plays than Matt Cassel during training camp because they have different skill sets.

  • Turner said tight end Kyle Rudolph has worked as hard as any person in the organization in the offseason and he’s anticipating Rudolph will have a big season as he embraces the new coaching scheme.


    On Friday, 17 Minnesota legislators sent a letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf that was also sent to the likes of the governor and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It questioned the way the Vikings handled the Chris Kluwe allegations made toward special teams coach Mike Priefer. The letter contained a reference to disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. To read the full letter and who signed off on it, click HERE.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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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