Q&A: With OL Coach Loney

With a full offseason working with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, Chris Liwienski at left guard and Mike Rosenthal at right tackle, offensive line coach Steve Loney has a big and talented group. See how he thinks it is all coming together.

Offensive line coach Steve Loney enters his second season in that position with the Vikings. Loney has 27 years of coaching experience at the college and pro level.

He was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Iowa State from 1995-97 and 2000-01. In 2000, his Cyclones offensive line allowed only seven sacks, the second lowest total in the nation.

Loney also has coached at the University of Minnesota (1998-99), Connecticut (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1993), Colorado State (1989-92), Citadel (1984-86), Morehead State (1979-83), Leavenworth (Kan.) High School (1977-78) and Missouri Western College (1975-76).

Q: How pleased have you been with the somewhat new look of the offensive line?

A: I've been very pleased. Our pass protection, the area that we have tried to emphasize that we think we have got to improve upon, we think in just the short time we have been here that they have picked the schemes up. There are always things in training camp — new looks — and that's what training camp is for. That's going to help them get prepared for the season. They have done that. They are practicing hard, preparing hard and I've been very happy with them.

Q: You not only have Bryant McKinnie in from the start of training camp this year, but you also have free-agent pickup Mike Rosenthal at a tackle and Chris Liwienski has been moved to a guard. How complete of an offensive line is this?

A: It's tough because I haven't coached every offensive line in the NFL, but I'm very pleased with them and as a coach I have confidence they are going to go out and they are going to play hard, number one, and number two, that there is a lot of talent there. I know that has to be a confidence builder for Daunte (Culpepper). It's got to be a confidence builder for our running backs, knowing that front is there again blocking for them and they were able to achieve great things last year.

Q: How key was it to be able to move Liwienski?

A: The thing that has done is that has provided more depth for us. I think Corbin (Lacina) sometimes took a little bit of a bum rap that replacing him with Chris was the answer to all the problems. I don't think that's necessarily true. I think what it does is it gives you more depth. It also puts you in a position where you've got Chris Liwienski in what I think is a more natural position for him at guard. Where he was a good tackle, we think he can be a great guard. All that being said, it's an excellent group.

Q: What will Rosenthal bring to the line?

A: He's athletic and he has a tremendous work ethic. He studies very hard. He's a guy we think we are not going to fall off in our production there. I think the nice thing, with the exception of Dave Dixon, is this is an offensive line that can grow old together. There is nobody in there that you would consider an old offensive lineman. They can work together and I think excel together.

Q: How about the size of the line?

A: I heard somebody say it's the biggest offensive line in the NFL. I don't know if that's true and I don't know how important that is. I do know they are big and they are talented and they have athleticism, so they should be able to get some things done.

Q: Is there anybody you are really impressed with what they appear to have done during the offseason?

A: The starting five obviously has done well. Adam Haayer is a guy that I think has put himself in a position to compete for a spot on this team. He plays that tackle position and he's getting work at both right and left. So he had a good offseason. (Center) Cory Withrow continues to do well and puts you in a position where if anything did happen to Matt Birk he can go in and not fall way off.

Q: Dixon's weight always has been a concern. He's listed at 343 pounds on the roster. How is he looking?

A: He made all his times in his runs and it's one of those things where Dave is never a guy that is going to be able to take weight off easily. He's always going to be concerned about it and he probably doesn't have the greatest eating habits in the world. It's something he is aware of, but he has been able to maintain a weight and it's not going way up. There was a time when he was having to lose weight by not eating and going in the steam bath, and those aren't healthy things to do. He's maintaining his weight a more healthy way and I think that will help him.

Q: With the way things are shaping up on the line, does this now offer Lewis Kelly a chance to learn a little bit? He got thrown into a tough situation last year, having to start because McKinnie held out.

A: I think this is a critical year for Lewis Kelly. The organization has put a lot of time and money into him and now is his time to shine. I think he understands the pressure that goes with that and I think he is in a position where he can have that opportunity. Unfortunately he pulled his hamstring, so he has been limited in the things he's doing so far. He needs to come on, but you can't do anything about injuries. You've got to wait and he's got make the most of the opportunities he gets.

Q: You've got McKinnie from the start this time around. How does he look?

A: He looks good. He's not going to be one of those number one draft picks that some teams have that people shake their heads after five years. He's going to be a guy that people look at and say, ‘I know why he was a first-round draft pick.' He's everything we hoped he would be.

Q: Did he work hard during the offseason?

A: He did and you know what? He's not in anyway a prima donna. He works hard, he's a person that has great pride, he takes coaching. He's like a sponge, he listens to everything that is being said but he has that great ability on top of that, which really makes him good.

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