Minnesota Vikings shoring up interior of offensive line

The Minnesota Vikings front office and coaching staff both stressed the importance of improving the offensive line this offseason and it appears to have started up the middle.

The Minnesota Vikings had to do a lot of shuffling along the interior of their offensive line last season. It started with the team parting ways with left guard Charlie Johnson and then moving Brandon Fusco over from the right side to fill the hole. They then had a competition between several players to see who would start at right guard and they ultimately settled for former tackle Mike Harris. They were set at center with John Sullivan, but he had to be placed on injured reserve with a herniated disc in his back that required two surgeries, so it was Joe Berger’s job for the season. 

The team is going through some similar shuffling again this offseason. After struggling at left guard, Fusco is moving back to the right side of the line and one of their free agent signings, Alex Boone, is expected to play left guard. Sullivan appears to be back healthy and is back battling for his starting role at center, but back injuries can be tricky so it is something to watch over the coming months. 

Getting Sully back is big – a veteran player who is a really good player,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We all know Joe stepped in and played extremely well last year. Obviously we made other additions in the offensive line, so I think it’s an area we can improve greatly and I think it’ll show up for our entire team.”

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1675036-locke-walsh-stronger-this...  The offensive line took a lot of heat a year ago and rightfully so. Running back Adrian Peterson may have led the NFL in rushing, but he also had more negative runs than any other running back in the league. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater also seemed to be under duress for a majority of the season and ended up being sacked 44 times, sixth most in the NFL, and he was pressured more than any other quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus. 

A lot of that starts with the push of the interior of the offensive line. Peterson likes to run up the middle and they are the ones who give him the room he needs. They are also the ones forming the pocket for Bridgewater when he is throwing the ball and giving him room to step up when the offensive tackles are sending the defensive ends wide. 

Turner believes that Boone’s physicality and energy is going to do a lot for not just the interior of the line, but the entire offense. although coaches might have to wait until the team has pads on to see the full effect he is going to have. 

“He’s a veteran football player. You watch him on tape and you know he’s a very, very physical football player. That doesn’t translate to being out here in jersey and shorts, but he’s brought some energy and some spark to our group – not just the offensive line,” Turner said of Boone. “I’m excited watching him play when we get in the fall, when we get in pads and start practicing and get in games.”

When Turner spoke at the Vikings’ organized team activities on Wednesday, he seemed a little disappointed with the struggles Fusco had at left guard. It was his first time ever playing on that side since he mainly played the right side in high school and then center in college, but his offensive coordinator believes that his players should be able to play whereever they line up. 

“I’m old-school and I think where you line up and play is where you play and you control how you play,” Turner explained. “Brandon obviously voices that he’s more comfortable on the right side and that’s a starting point. It might just be a mental thing, but he’s played well over there in the past. We’re looking for him to do that again in the future.”

Another thing that could have hindered Fusco’s play was that he was coming of surgery on a torn pectoral muscle, so his strength may not have been back to normal yet. That could make things very difficult for an offensive lineman, but he is almost two years off that surgery now and should be fully healed. He is also back to the side where he is more comfortable. 

The Vikings front office and coaching staff made fixing the offensive line a point of emphasis this offseason and it has clearly started with the interior. 


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