T.J. Clemmings was neither surprised nor concerned about his move back to offensive tackle the last couple weeks after getting first-team reps at right guard to begin organized team activities.
It’s all part of the process of building a more versatile offensive lineman out of the rookie that made a switch from defensive line to offensive line two years into his college career at the University of Pittsburgh.
After missing some practice time to injury early in OTAs, Clemmings returned to the lineup, only to see him working mostly as a second-string right tackle rather than a starting-unit right guard.
“I like guard. I’m not saying I like it more than tackle. I was starting to get to like it a little bit because being in closer you can just grab somebody and just hold on,” Clemmings said. “The game of football is fun in general, so it’s just continuing to learn every day is what I’m continuing to do.”
Clemmings remained mostly at right tackle during the opening day of minicamp, but, as with other positions, depth-chart analysis at this juncture is generally meaningless, especially with younger players. Coaches are often rotating players in and out of different levels of the depth chart to gain further analysis on individuals.
Clemmings said it wasn’t a surprise to him to be asked to play guard when he arrived in Minnesota because he already discussed that possibility with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson before the Vikings even selected Clemmings in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
His move back to tackle wasn’t a surprise, either.
“Honestly, I think it’s just being able to get reps at both positions. I don’t think coach wants me to stay at one position and not really get reps at tackle on this level,” Clemmings said. “I think it’s just being able to mix and match different pieces and see where guys fit best.”
Clemmings still anticipates the opportunity to compete for the starting spot at right guard, where fellow rookie Tyrus Thompson was getting the majority of his work at Tuesday’s first minicamp practice. But Clemmings admits that after playing two years of tackle at Pitt, he’s more “fluid” there.
“It’s a little more natural, but I’m starting to get a good feel for guard, too, I believe. I’m just happy that they’re letting me get reps at both tackle and guard so I can add versatility to my game,” Clemmings said.
“It’s not that much different. It’s small differences that make a big deal. It’s not that different on certain blocks, but there are blocks that are a little different that you have to have slightly different technique – off footwork can put you in bad positions.”
While many players will take full advantage of their five weeks off between minicamp and training camp, Clemmings said he plans to spend some time in the first couple weeks of that break studying tape and working on technique to prepare to compete for a starting spot. Technique, he says, is the difference between playing and not playing at the NFL level.
While there are times he can be more aggressive at guard than at tackle, he said it’s a misconception that some believe his aggressiveness on the line is a natural carryover from his days on the defensive line at Pittsburgh. Quite the opposite, he said.
“That’s very wrong for me. That may work for some other people, but I don’t believe in that defensive line mentality thing. I didn’t start to get super aggressive until I started playing offensive line,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh, he brought that defensive line mentality.’ No, I didn’t. It developed and I learned it once I started playing offensive line. It was something that every game I just feel that’s what I’m going in with. I don’t tell people I got it from the defensive line because I might still be playing defense if I had that (attitude).”
Position movement not a concern for Clemmings
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