When asked what the plan moving forward at the left tackle position is, Zimmer said they will be handing the role over to T.J. Clemmings and will not be looking elsewhere to fill the void.
“At this point and time I think it’s hard to find left tackles that are on the street,” Zimmer said. “We’re planning on going with what we’ve got.”
Clemmings ended up starting the entire 2015 regular season at right tackle as a rookie after Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles tendon in the preseason. He struggled for a majority of the season and often needed help from a tight end or a running back.
Despite his struggles last season, the Vikings decided to make him their swing tackle this offseason. He continued to work as the right tackle, but would also get reps at left tackle in place of Kalil. It can be a difficult transition, especially since left tackle is often thought of as the more difficult position, but Zimmer seems to be pleased with what he saw from Clemming during the preseason.
“He’s done pretty good, especially in the preseason,” the head coach said. “He’s a good athlete and he’s going to compete and fight.”
Clemmings’ never-give-up attitude is something that has drawn praise from his teammates on both sides of the football. His fellow offensive linemen see how hard he works when lined up next to them and the defensive linemen can see it when they square up against him.
“He’s tough, he’s a tough player,” offensive guard Alex Boone said. “He’ll fight till the bitter end. He’s long - he’s got great length - he’s strong, he’s smart. He’s an overall great tackle, so people can say what they want but he’s going to fit in just fine.”
“He’s a guy that works on his technique every day,” defensive end Brian Robison said, echoing the praise from Boone. “He’s a guy that gives it 100 percent every single play and that’s what we love about T.J. No matter what happens, no matter what things are going on, he’s going to give you everything’s he’s got. That’s what you want out of a teammate.”
The truth of the matter is, though, that coaches and teammates can support a player all they want, but all that matters is how ready that player is and how they perform. Clemmings had a rough rookie season a year ago and that could shake a player’s confidence, although that does not appear to be the case with him.
Clemmings admitted that he played poorly a year ago and a some big reasons why were because his techniques were not sound and he didn’t fully understand what it was they were trying to do on offense.
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“Just my technique in general on both sides, I’ve gotten better since last year,” Clemmings said. “And my understanding of what we do as an offense is a lot better than last year, so a lot of the mistakes I made last year I probably won’t make this year.”
The second-year tackle knew that there was a possibility he would have to step up and play left tackle once he was named the team’s swing tackle. He feels comfortable playing on the left side and he is ready for the challenge that has been placed in front of him, but only time will tell if he can truly step up and play at the level they need.