With the Minnesota Vikings now having their 2016 roster effectively in place for the remainder of the countdown period between now and Labor Day, when the team will get ready to defend its NFC North title with the start of the regular season, the overviews of the anticipated roster and depth chart are still somewhat uncertain.
First-round rookie Laquon Treadwell is probably going to be a Day 1 starter, or, at a minimum, a rookie who sees a lot of playing time. Mackensie Alexander is going to be part of the defensive sub packages – likely pushing Captain Munnerlyn for playing time in the slot.
But what are the Vikings going to do with their offensive line?
It’s a question that hasn’t had any concrete answers since the start of the offseason and only seems to getting muddier instead of getting clearer.
The Vikings had the distinction of being the only of the NFL’s 32 teams that had the same five starters at the same starting position for each of the 16 games last season. Nobody else could say that. But, for the Vikings, that lone distinction came with a price: it wasn’t the five they envisioned heading into training camp.
Before wins and losses mattered, the Vikings lost center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt – the two most vested O-linemen in the room. Both took the long pre-game walk across an empty Superdome in suits hours prior to the NFC Championship Game that could have, would have, and, some would contend, should have ended the Minnesota Super Bowl drought during the 2009 postseason.
If Jeff Davidson was still the offensive line coach, in all likelihood, his loyalty to Sully and Big Phil would have the time-honored adage that only comes with years spent together that a starter doesn’t lose his job due to injury. Unfortunately for them, Davidson and his loyalty are no longer part of the Vikings’ coaching staff. That job is now held by Tony Sparano, who is bringing his own ideas to the table and nobody’s job is safe or assured.
Does Loadholt have the right tackle job or does free agent signee Andre Smith have the inside track?
Where is free agent guard signee Alex Boone going to line up? For now, that is at left guard and means Brandon Fusco will likely head back to the right guard spot to compete for a starting spot there.
At center, does Sullivan automatically get his job back or will he be in a preseason battle with Joe Berger for the starting spot?
The only thing that seems certain is that the Vikings went into the offseason with the goal of solidifying the offensive line. They’ve done that with the talent acquired, but the question now is who will be the guys that hold down the starting five spots? The Vikings have at least eight or nine guys that can stake a claim to a starting position because they’ve been NFL starters already. But, as of now, there are many more questions than answers as to who those five starters are going to be.
It’s a good problem to have – too many possible starters for not enough starting spots. But until the Vikings settle on the five they believe will give them the best chance of winning, we may not have answers to those questions until late August or early September, and the battles will be fierce as players look to carve out their slot in the lineup.