Minnesota Vikings sophomore spotlight: T.J. Clemmings

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings went through trial by fire during his rookie season and is now looking to bounce back from it as he works to become the team's swing tackle.

The Minnesota Vikings had 10 picks in the 2015 NFL draft. One year after their selection, it’s time to look back on their careers before joining the Vikings, their rookie seasons and a preview of what lies ahead of them during their sophomore seasons. 

It was not until the fourth round of the 2015 draft that the Minnesota Vikings decided to address the offensive side of the ball. The selection was Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings. Many had him pegged as a first- or second-round talent, but an old stress fracture in his foot that turned up during medical evaluations raised a red flag for a lot of teams. The Vikings decided to take a chance on him, though, because they felt the possible reward was greater than the risk.

Before the Vikings

Clemmings began his college career as a defensive end, but switched to the offensive side of the ball for the final two seasons. He had great size for the position with plenty of athleticism and quick feet, but his limited experience at the position caused some teams some pause come draft day. He was still a very raw player and many believed he would still need a year or two to develop, but he had a very high ceiling if he could get the proper coaching. 

What analysts said

“Clemmings played high school basketball and was a late switch to the offensive tackle position in college. There are holes in his protection technique and he must learn to trust his feet. Clemmings should continue to learn the position and improve. He has the physical traits to become a Pro Bowl tackle, but the Senior Bowl practices exposed how green he still is. Confidence could become an issue with his pass protection unless he develops selective amnesia when beaten.” - NFL.com bottom line


"He played extremely well as an offensive tackle at Pitt in games. Went to the Senior Bowl and got undressed. Why? Because he's only been an offensive player for two years. He's very raw from a technique perspective." - NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock

Looks more the part of a left tackle prospect than a right tackle considering his finesse style and leaner frame. He needs to improve hand placement as a pass-blocker, and will drop his shoulder and head on contact at times. A bit stiff in the hips, struggling to re-direct to counter moves back inside, an issue that was exposed on multiple occasions at the Senior Bowl.” - Dane Brugler and Derek Stephens, CBS Sports

Entering the NFL, Clemmings' strength is his run blocking. He can bulldoze defensive linemen out of their gap and open holes in the ground game. He shows real power to ride them down the field and sustain his blocks through the whistle. Clemmings also is a good athlete with quickness. That's were the left tackle projections come from, but he needs a lot of work before being ready for that. Clemmings is a good run-blocker, but needs a lot of work in pass protection.” - WalterFootball.com

2015 season

Right guard was the only open spot along the offensive line that Vikings had open to start their offseason workouts and Clemmings was the first player they tried out there. He manned the position during the first part of organized team activities, but did not hold onto it for very long. The coaching staff eventually decided that it would be more beneficial for him to work as the backup right tackle and continue to learn the position, instead of try to learn a new one. 


The original plan was for Clemmings to back up Phil Loadholt, who has been nearing the end of his career, and eventually take over his starting job. That plan got accelerated, though, as Loadholt tore his Achilles tendon during the preseason, meaning the starting right tackle job belonged to Clemmings for the remainder of the 2015 season. 

It was a roller coaster of a year for Clemmings, filled with plenty of ups and downs, but in the end it could help him. If he is able to look past all the negative things about his rookie season, he could use it as a great learning experience and get better as a player. 

2016 outlook

Clemmings is going to begin training camp as Vikings' backup offensive tackle, but his role in the offense still appears to be expanding. He has been working at left tackle, where many experts actually thought he was better equipped to play, as well as right tackle. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said that every team needs to have a swing tackle, one that can play on both ends of the line, and it appears they want Clemmings to be that for them this year. 

Starting left tackle Matt Kalil has had a rough go of things the past few seasons and is now entering into the final year of his rookie contract. If things do not go well for him this season, the team could part ways with him, which could be why they want to look at Clemmings on the left side. 

If he is able to get his footwork down working on the left side and continue to improve his fundamentals, Clemmings could get a shot as the team’s starting left tackle a little ways down the road. 

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