Goldberg Relishes Competition From Johnson

Second-round draft pick Marcus Johnson was expected to battle Adam Goldberg for the starting spot at left guard, but Johnson spent most of minicamp filling in for the injured Mike Rosenthal at right tackle. Where does that leave those three offensive linemen? We talked to offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Loney, Pro Bowl center Matt Birk and Goldberg to find out where things stand.

When the Vikings hit Eden Prairie for last month's minicamp, they unveiled a new-look offensive line that featured Chris Liwienski switching from left guard to right guard, leaving his vacant spot open to what most observers assumed would be the winner of a battle between three-year veteran Adam Goldberg and second-round draft pick Marcus Johnson.

That's what everybody assumed, anyway. But as the three days of workouts progressed, it became clear that those assumptions were, at best, premature.

By the end of minicamp, Goldberg appeared to have a leg up (and at 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, that's a mighty big leg) on the left guard spot, while Johnson was taking reps at right tackle, where Mike Rosenthal is still recovering from a broken foot that sidelined him for most of the 2004 season.

"We worked (Johnson) out at left guard and right tackle (in minicamp) but really until you get pads on a guy, it's difficult to determine what his role is going to be," Vikings offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Loney told Viking Update. "We knew from the get-go that Marcus Johnson was a potential left guard/right tackle competitor, as is Adam Goldberg. Both guys can be swing personnel on this line."

Loney added that one shouldn't read too much into Rosenthal's limitations at minicamp, but if he's still struggling come August, folks in Mankato could get an eyeful of Johnson at right tackle.

"Rosenthal can't do any crosswork against the defense yet, so it was a good opportunity to expand (Johnson) a little bit and see how quickly he advances," Loney said.

So, where does that leave Goldberg? Taking nothing for granted, apparently.

"It should be a great competition that will elevate everyone's play on the offensive line," he said of Johnson's addition to the roster. "Competition is a good thing. It's not something you dread. It's how you get better, and it's the way of life in the NFL.

"How many positions in this league are a dead lock going into the season?" he continued. "Not many. Obviously you've got your franchise players, and coaches have to put them on the field, but beyond that you're going to have competition everywhere."

One of those franchise players, Matt Birk, is the anchor of the Vikings' offensive line, and the Pro Bowl center echoed Goldberg's thoughts about Johnson's presence bringing out the best of all the linemen.

"It should be a great competition. Every year you've got to fight for your job," Birk said. "Adam got some experience here last year at right tackle, and we've got a second-round draft pick. Whoever wins the job, it means he's going to have to earn it, and whoever doesn't win the job, it means we're going to have a quality backup at that position."

Goldberg is a graduate of Edina High School and starred at Wyoming before signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2003. After spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Goldberg eased his way into the offensive line mix when Rosenthal was injured in Week 2 at Philadelphia last year. Goldberg started six of the final 13 games and both playoff contests, sharing much of the duties with rookie Nat Dorsey. Now, Goldberg is primed to make the jump across Birk's back to share the left side of the line with Bryant McKinnie.

"The majority of his time has been spent at tackle with the Vikings," Loney said. "Experience is the thing with the guard position that will help his development. Right now, there's nothing physical that jumps out and says, 'Man, is he struggling with this.' It's just building a physical comfort level with the position and the left-handed stance."

Fortunately for Goldberg, he's got the drive to apply himself to the task, a vital component of any undrafted player's makeup. "I work hard and I just try to get better every day," he said. "I take everything I learn in film sessions and apply it on the field so I don't make the same mistake twice."

He's also got enough self-confidence to expect the most of himself, and expect that he'll be in the starting lineup Week 1 at the Metrodome against Tampa Bay.

"Yeah -- in this business you have to be confident," Goldberg said. "It's not cockiness, it's just being sure of yourself."

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