There is really only one starting position up for grabs on the offensive side of the ball for the Minnesota Vikings – right guard. Fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings originally got the first-team snaps at the position in organized team activities, but head coach Mike Zimmer announced at the start of training camp that Clemmings would be staying at tackle.
That means sixth-round pick Tyrus Thompson is the only rookie who appears to have a real shot at winning the starting job. He worked out with the starters during minicamp but has only taking second-team reps thus far in training camp as veteran Mike Harris holds down the starting spot. Understandably, Thompson isn’t the biggest fan of switching back to the second team, but at the same time he understands that it is a competition and everyone deserves a shot.
“You know, it’s a competition,” he said. “We’re all in a competition and we all have to have our shots and we all have to prove ourselves. He’s up right now and I just have to do my job and try to get the spot.”
Thompson played offensive tackle in college so switching to guard has been a new experience. As anyone could expect, there have been some ups and downs but he believes that the transition has been good overall.
“Interesting,” he said when asked about his transition to guard. “It’s been good learning new stuff. Things are just a little bit different than tackle, but I think overall it’s been pretty good.”
One thing that is helping the rookie is the presence of John Sullivan. The veteran center is entering his eighth NFL season and has seen almost everything there is to see in the trenches. Whenever Thompson would make a mistake, Sullivan would come up to him and explain what he did wrong and what he needs to do to fix it.
The rookie has actually told everyone along the line to let him know if he is doing anything wrong because he wants to make sure he fixes all his mistakes as soon as possible.
“I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes and I keep asking (Sullivan) every day – and all the guys – if they see something, just tell me so I can stop and fix it,” he said.
One of the biggest problems that Thompson has had so far this offseason is figuring out how to properly use his leverage. At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, he has good size for an interior lineman, but he was also put on his backside a couple times when a defensive tackle would bull rush him.
“Being better with my leverage and just understanding the playbook as a whole,” he said. “Just transferring all the tackle stuff that I have learned and now just trying to get all the guard stuff.”
Thompson is determined to improve his game and crack the starting lineup his rookie season. The biggest drive pushing him is where he was picked in the draft. He felt like a lot of teams overlooked him and now he is looking to prove them wrong.
“I couldn’t be more motivated in the first place than when I went in the sixth round,” he said.
Loads to learn, but Thompson diligent student
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