Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. on Wednesday morning, Zimmer was honest once again in his assessment of the Vikings’ 2015 offensive line.
“I feel every other position group on our football team has a tough-minded personality. I don’t know that our O-line did,” he said, according to the Pioneer Press.
It’s been an offseason theme in Zimmer’s talks with the media since the Vikings ended the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got to protect better. We’ve got to run the ball better. I know we ran the ball a lot, but we weren’t efficient in a lot of things we did,” he told Viking Update at the Senior Bowl. “We’ve got to do all those things better.”
Since then, the Vikings have re-signed offensive linemen Mike Harris and Carter Bykowski restructured the contract of right tackle Phil Loadholt, and signed outside free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith.
With those signings and the addition of Tony Sparano as the offensive line coach, Zimmer is hoping, and believes, the offensive line should play better in 2016. That was the message in a text he said he sent to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson.
“Now there’s no excuses. It’s time to go now,” was the essence of that text, Zimmer said, according to the Pioneer Press.
“Teddy was running for his life half the time. We had a whole bunch of 1-yard runs. We needed to make some changes.”
Smith is expected to compete with Loadholt and possibly Harris for the right tackle spot, and Zimmer knows what Smith brings to the team because the two of them were together in Cincinnati when Smith was a first-round pick of the Bengals in 2009.
“He’s got experience,” Zimmer said. “I like having first-round picks that leave other places because they have pedigrees.”
It’s possible Smith could also challenge Matt Kalil at left tackle, Zimmer said, although it seems more likely Smith will push for the starting spot at right tackle.
Loadholt suffered a torn Achilles tendon last August and Zimmer said he is progressing in weight room, and center John Sullivan – also lost for the entire 2015 season – is regaining his strength.
Either way, creating competition and upgrading the offensive line was a priority this offseason and the Vikings followed through with that in their free-agent moves.