The left side of the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was a weak point for them last year and a big reason why the team allowed 51 sacks. Left tackle Matt Kalil was dealing with a nagging knee injury all season that hampered his play and there was inconsistent guard play next to him for a majority of the season.
To fix that the Vikings made sure that Kalil got surgery done early in the offseason so he’d have ample time to heal and then they decided to move former starting right guard Brandon Fusco to the left side.
The move has appeared to help Kalil a great deal as he has been playing at a high level for a majority of the year (although he hasn’t practiced this week with a toe injury). Fusco, however, has had his struggles playing on the left side for the first time in his career. He played on the right side of the offensive line in high school and center in college, so the fact he was learning a different side of the line has made the move more difficult.
“It’s been a tough transition, but there are things that I have to get back to work on,” he said. “Just simple techniques, the first couple steps and the techniques my coach has been teaching me, both run and pass. We’re just getting back to the basics and going from there. Getting back to what I used to be doing.”
When people think about a player moving from right to left guard they often think that it should be an easy transition to make, but in reality it is quite difficult, players attest. Everything they are doing is completely opposite from what they have been doing for years and it usually takes time to get the new techniques down.
Fusco will often stay late after practice, continuing to work on his techniques and footwork to make sure he gets it down. He wants to be comfortable with what he is doing come game time so he can continue to play naturally.
“It’s really just balancing my stance and getting out of it and just keeping my weight evenly within myself and just playing under more control,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten away from that a little bit, just trying to be something I’m not and just trying to get back to what I used to be. Playing under control, always be physical and just do my job.”
Last week against the Oakland Raiders may have been Fusco’s best game of the season and could be a turning point for the rest of the season. He helped the offense put up 263 yards on the ground. Head coach Mike Zimmer gave the game ball to Fusco, center Joe Berger and right guard Mike Harris.
“I thought he had his best game, coach gave him the game ball – he, the center and the right guard – so this is a week-to-week league,” said offensive coordinator Norv Turner. “I think he’s playing more comfortably at left guard. Sometimes it’s a matchup, sometimes it’s his scheme, but he played well last week.”
As he continues to get more comfortable and develop better habits on the left side of the line, his play should only continue to improve. The transition has been a little rough on Fusco, but with over half a season under his belt he is finally starting to feel comfortable.