The Minnesota Vikings continued organized team activities on Wednesday and it seems as though things may be starting to change at offensive tackle, especially on the right side of the line. Phil Loadholt was still the original right tackle with the first-team offense, but Andre Smith seems to be gaining ground rather quickly and taking more reps there.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1674448-video-vikings-ota-highlig... Both of the players were getting reps with the first-team offense, when a week ago it was only Loadholt taking first-team reps. One reason could be that Loadholt has struggled after missing all of last season and the last month-plus of the 2014 season. He is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon and speed seems to be what he has the most trouble with, as defensive end Danielle Hunter has made a habit of blowing past him on a consistent basis, thus far.
The starting spot still seems to belong to Loadholt, though, and the coaching staff is still hopeful that he can return to form.
“He’s missed a lot of time and I think he’s handled it extremely well,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said of Loadholt. “He’s got a long ways to go to get back to where he can be ready to go play in games, but if anyone can do it Phil can, and he’s working awfully hard to get that done.”
If he continues to struggle, though, Smith may start to see more reps with the first team, especially if he continues to play at a high level. He seemed to handle the speed rush of Hunter pretty well when going against the first-team defense and did not appear to give up any sacks.
The left tackle position also had some shuffling around during Wednesday’s OTAs, as second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings was getting some reps with the first team. Matt Kalil is still expected to be the starter on that side of the line, but it was interesting to see the second-year tackle working against defensive end Everson Griffen.
He held his own pretty well, which was a little surprising after his struggles a year ago and should be an encouraging sign. This is Clemmings’ first year ever playing on the left side of the offensive line, but he seems to be picking things up rather quickly.
“T.J. has been doing good,” Turner said. “It’s a change for him. He gets challenged every day by our defensive front. We’ve got good players over there, so I think he’s making progress.”
Having Kalil take limited reps could also be precautionary since Kalil sat out for most of the practice last Wednesday. It’s possible he is still trying to recover and having him give some of his reps to Clemmings could be the coaches not wanting to push him too hard.
Turner also gave another explanation, though, and that is that they need to make sure their backups are always ready to step up if the starters go down.
“When you get into the season and you get limited by roster numbers, your backup players have to be able to play both sides and you have a swing tackle,” he said. “When we practice now and when we practice in the summer, someone is going to continue to move and get reps at both sides.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1673628-access-viking-update-free... Seeing players like Clemmings and Smith, who are not the starters yet, playing well with the first-team offense has to be encouraging for the coaching staff. They wanted to create competition throughout the offensive line this offseason and it appears they have done just that.
Smith could very easily overtake Loadholt if things do not change before training camp, but it is not likely Clemmings will overtake Kalil. There is still a lot of practice before the start of the regular season, though, and it is always hard to predict how things are going to turn out this early.