Minnesota Vikings’ guards have physical challenge ahead

The St. Louis Rams might have the best rotational defensive tackles in the game, meaning the interior of the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line has to be ready for a physical challenge.

The Minnesota Vikings offensive line is going to have a difficult task this weekend when the St. Louis Rams come to visit. Not only do the Rams have players all along their defensive line that can get after the quarterback, but they are able to bring pressure from anywhere on the field at almost any given time.

The Rams are currently tied for second in the NFL with 26 sacks, but those sacks have come from 13 different players. The Vikings know it is going to be a challenge, but the team appears confident heading into the game.

“We have to be sharp on the protections, especially the pressure stuff because you can’t just pay attention to (Aaron) Donald and (Robert) Quinn and (Michael) Brockers,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re aware of their corner cats (blitzes) – they have some corner cats and linebackers coming and safeties too, so they bring them from all different levels.”

The Vikings do have some experience going against the Rams defense, as they played them Week 1 of the 2014 season, but the offensive line knows this week is going to be an entirely different challenge. The St. Louis defensive line is more experienced, playing at a higher level and has added some new pieces since then.

“We played them last year, they didn’t have (Nick) Fairley, but I just remember it was a physical game,” Vikings guard Brandon Fusco said. “They got great personnel all the way around, top to bottom. It’s first-, second-round talent so we’ve got our hands full, but really it’s just man up this week, block the man in front of you and it’s all physical. That’s how we play football.”

Fairley is a very interesting piece along the Rams’ defensive front because he is a very talented player, but he is not a starter. Instead he comes in to give the defensive tackles a break, but there is little dropoff in talent.

The Vikings do have some experience going against Fairley since he spent the first four years of his career with the Detroit Lions, but Fusco is expecting a different player from the one they knew. He knows that Fairley has likely added some new weapons to his arsenal, and with him being a rotational player now he will always be fresh when he takes the field.

“He’s a big, athletic guy,” Fusco said of Fairley. “He presses you with his quickness off the ball. I mean, he’s a veteran now so he’s gotten better over the years, but he’s always been pretty good so we’ve got our hands full. He doesn’t even start. He comes in and fills in for Donald or Brockers so it’s a good switch up for them. It’s not like anything decreases, he’s a pretty good player.”

Donald is another interesting matchup for the Vikings offensive line because they played him in his first ever NFL regular season game last year, but he has exploded onto the scene since then. With 4½ sacks this season, he is one of the best defensive tackles when it comes to rushing the passer, and Fusco knows they have to forget everything they know about him from their last meeting.

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“It’s just going back and watching all the film from this year and maybe late last year,” he said. “He’s gotten a lot better so he’s probably one of the better defensive linemen in this league.

“He’s really; it amazes you how quick he is. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s explosive and very strong. I think he takes pride in embarrassing guys on film and really we just need to be ready for that. Just match his aggressiveness and his physicality, so we’ll be ready for it.”

It is going to be an all-around tough matchup for the Vikings offensive line, who has been susceptible to giving up sacks this season. But Fusco believes figuring out the Rams pass rush comes down to watching enough tape so they can determine what they are trying to do in different situations.

Fusco thinks if the offensive line can do that and get on the same page they should be OK, especially playing at home where communication shouldn’t be a problem.


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