The Minnesota Vikings have had multiple moving parts along their offensive line, which is not an ideal situation. The best offensive lines in the NFL are usually the ones that have played together for multiple years because all the players know what the player next to him is going to do and they are all comfortable together.
The Vikings have already moved Brandon Fusco from the right to the left side, put Mike Harris – an offensive tackle – in at right guard, and then Saturday night their starting right tackle, Phil Loadholt, tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.
The team’s center and leader along the offensive line, John Sullivan, is not worried about having time to build continuity together, though. He knows that they don’t have a choice and just have to do their job.
“We have to (build continuity); we’ll get it done,” he said. “We don’t need to do the whole woe-is-me thing. We’ve got to battle on the offensive line. It’s time to work. There’s no reason looking back on it and saying what if. the guys have to be up to speed and ready to play and win games. Comes as simple as that.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer is not very worried about the offensive line either and actually thinks they have been doing better than they did a year ago. He is happy with how they have performed in the first two preseason games.
“I think they played well in the two games,” Zimmer said. “We’ve been working like crazy with these guys, especially in the protection part of things. I think Teddy (Bridgewater) slid one time and he’s been on the ground one time on the scramble. But I think they’ve done a nice time giving him time in the pocket and their technique looks a lot better.
“We’ll be fine. Obviously we’re going to miss Phil. He’s a great guy in the locker room, he’s good on the field, but I feel good about the things we are doing with these guys right now and where they’re at. And I’m very hopeful they’ll continue to keep progressing but I think they are starting to develop some chemistry and starting to develop some confidence.”
After the injury to Loadholt, the biggest question mark moving forward is how their rookie right tackle, T.J. Clemmings, will do replacing him. Sullivan already thinks that Clemmings has the making to be a “great player,” but Sullivan knows there is still a lot for him to learn and it is up to the rest of the line to get him up to speed.
Clemmings spent half of his rookie season on the defensive line and Sullivan wishes he hadn’t.
“I don’t think that helps at all,” Sullivan said when asked how playing on the defensive line helped Clemmings. “It may be indicative of the fact that he’s more athletic than the rest of us if he was able to play defense at one point but you actually wish he played offensive line his entire time at college. He’d be further along if that were the case.”
But, according to the center, Clemmings is doing all he can to get caught up to where he needs to be. Every day he is asking questions in their team meeting and constantly trying to learn new things from the veterans and coaching staff. That should only help the line build continuity faster.
The question is: Will that be fast enough?