Yankey improved strength, versatility
David Yankey’s succession of movement along the offensive line continues.
At Stanford, Yankey played tackle his freshman and junior years. His sophomore and senior years were spent at guard, which is the position the Minnesota Vikings pegged him to play when drafting him in the fifth round last year.
Despite injuries on the offensive line, Yankey didn’t play at all last year. It didn’t help that Stanford was on a quarters system that didn’t allow Yankey to attend organized team practices as a rookie, putting him behind in the installation of the offense.
“I don’t think I really realized how much (being at OTAs) helped until this year being in it the whole time and realizing how much work you get in throughout the whole OTAs and all the technique stuff and getting to hammer out all those details that I hammered out throughout the season and then really refine it a little bit more,” Yankey said. “I really appreciated getting the OTA work this year.”
Good thing he had a full offseason of work this year because now the Vikings are asking Yankey to play some tackle, where he has been taking snaps with the second-team offense on the left side.
While the Vikings are asking several players to learn different positions, one reason Yankey has been used there lately is because Carter Bykowski has been dealing with swelling in his right leg.
“It’s a hard adjustment just to throw him out there, but I thought he had two good days in a row,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said.
“It’s kind of a necessity when you’re practicing, and obviously Carter missed a couple of days. His knee swelled up a little bit. You put someone in there and it gives them an opportunity to go. I think Yankey has made the most of that opportunity.”
Yankey certainly hopes that is the overall, real assessment. He’s looking for an opportunity to play after a rookie season spent without any regular-season snaps on either offense or special teams.
“Especially when you are in a backup role, there’s not a lot of opportunity. You have 46 guys dressed out on game day, so typically we’ll have two backups on the offensive line, maybe three,” he said. “So you’ve got to really do as much as you can and I think proving that in the preseason gives you a better chance not only to make the team but be someone that they rely on to play consistently.”
Last year, when asked why Yankey wasn’t playing despite the injuries incurred on the offensive line, Vikings coaches pointed to him needing to improve his strength. Naturally, that turned into one of his focuses this offseason.
“Definitely. I focused a lot on building low-body strength, core strength, just trying to be in good, balanced football position all the time,” he said. “I’ve done a better job of that through the offseason and try to take that into training camp.”
Turner agreed with that assessment.
“I think he has improved his strength, and when you improve your strength that improves your quickness,” the offensive coordinator said. “I think he’s playing lower and when he’s pulling he’s doing a good job pulling. I think he’s improved his technique along with improving his strength.”
Yankey admitted his pad level and balance was an issue last year, but said that part of his technique has improved.
Officially, Yankey is listed as a guard in the first official depth chart the Vikings released on Tuesday, but he has been spending more time filling in for Bykowski at tackle the past few days.
If he moves back to guard when Bykowski returns, it might at least give him a shot to compete for an open position at right guard after the Vikings moved Fusco to left guard.
“As far as I know, it’s still an open competition so we’ll see what happens,” Yankey said.
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