Through nine games, Matt Kalil is credited with giving up 10 sacks, the most of any offensive tackle in the NFL.
Despite that, general manager Rick Spielman believes the change in offensive schemes and the change in quarterbacks has played a part in Kalil’s “ups and downs” this season.
“They’re learning a whole new system, whole new pass protections. All of a sudden, OK, we have another young quarterback. All that chemistry and stuff that’s working, we had a couple of injuries up front,” Spielman said. “But I think they’ve really progressed over the last couple weeks, too, just like most of our team has. When different quarterbacks are in at that position, they can kind of get a feel for that guy setting in the pocket, or that guy stepping up, because there’s different styles – this guy can move, this guy might not be as mobile. So I think all that’s just part of the process as we’re learning and growing together.”
While Spielman said that some of the sacks credited to Kalil are being wrongly assigned, Pro Football Focus also credits Kalil with giving up 20 pressures, eighth-most among tackles.
“A couple of the sacks you guys are dinging him on are not always his fault, because you guys don’t know what the pass protection was, or where the slide was,” Spielman told reporters last week. “I know Matt was inconsistent early, but over the last two or three weeks, he really has gotten a lot better, and got back to being focused. I really think Matt’s going to be a heck of a left tackle in this league.”
PFF credited Kalil with giving up eight sacks in the first seven weeks and two over the last two games, but as a whole the pass protection has improved in the last two games. After giving up 13 sacks in a two-week stretch against the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, the Vikings allowed a combined three sacks over their last two games, both wins.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has to take some of the blame for the inordinate amount of sacks during that two-week stretch, as he held onto the ball too long at times.
Spielman believes some of the protection problem was attributable to youth and some, in Kalil’s case, might have been a confidence issue.
“All these young guys, I think if you look at a lot of our higher draft picks, most of them were all juniors coming out. There is a huge difference in my opinion that a four- or five-year senior coming out, and a three-year junior coming out, that there is a lot of difference in maturity,” Spielman said. “Guys mature and guys click at different times. I think you have to be patient through that process. Some guys click early. Some guys click second year. Some guys click third year. This is a little bit unique, because we started a whole new regime, a new coaching staff, new systems, everybody’s learning different things that they’ve never done before.
“Part of it is, it’s not so much the physical ability all the time. It’s where the mental part comes in. Sometimes, when these guys are getting beat or they’re not having as much success, you have to be patient through that process and those growing pains.”
Spielman: Kalil ‘back to being focused’
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