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When The Bacon Is The Issue, You've Got Issues

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Wait, what??

This is Teddy Bridgewater setting up in a pocket. This didn't happen a lot against Detroit.
This is Teddy Bridgewater setting up in a pocket. This didn't happen a lot against Detroit.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this morning, Friend of the Norseman and Purple For The Win podcast host Andy Carlson had the best metaphor for the Vikings 2-4 start thus far:

We knew coming in to 2014 that the Vikings had a lot of questions heading in to 2014, but the offensive line (well, and running back) we thought were the foundation upon which this football team would build around, much like you build a club sandwich around solid, quality bacon.

If the bacon sucks, or the foundation isn't strong...a lot of times you might need to completely start from scratch. That's already started with the running game, as Jerick McKinnon looks to be a decent start to move on from the Adrian Peterson era...if that does, in fact, happen. Matt Asiata doesn't seem to be a long term answer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Vikings try and grab another running back early in the draft, or maybe in free agency. But if McKinnon is your starting over point, it's not a bad starting over point, and it seems relatively easy to get it back to an asset. And even after the last two games, the Vikings rushing attack is 17th in the NFL, which isn't terrible.

But the offensive line, though, is a completely different animal, and one without as many easy answers. The focus of the outrage is on LT Matt Kalil, but he's not the only problem. Overall, I'm okay with John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, and Phil Loadholt, but both Sully and Loadholt had awful games yesterday. But that still leaves Charlie Johnson, and with Fusco out for the year, RG Vlad Ducasse.

The problem is that there's very little the Vikings can do about 60% of their o-line this year, at least personnel wise. Let's go the Vikings official depth chart taken off of their website, and you'll see what I mean:

Position

Starter

Backup

LT

Matt Kalil

LG

Charlie Johnson

David Yankey

C

John Sullivan

Joe Berger

RG

Vladimir Ducasse

Austin Wentworth

RT

Phil Loadholt

Mike Harris

As horrible as Kalil has been...7 percent of the time, haha right okay whatever...the only realistic option as a potential replacement at LT is jack of all trades Joe Berger, who can play anywhere on the line. It would be tough to argue that Berger would be a downgrade over Kalil...but he's also the backup center. What do the VIkings do if they start Berger at LT and Berger gets hurt? They currently have a center (and the only offensive lineman) on the practice squad, rookie Zac Kerin, so I guess, if Mike Zimmer wanted to send a message, they could bench Kalil, insert Berger into the lineup, promote Kerin to the active roster, and cut somebody. Like someone who's been late for meetings, to send a message.

It would be brutal, but I do believe it would send the message Zimmer is trying to send. Of course, he could make a simple move and put in Austin Wentworth in place of Kalil, who played LT in the pre-season...hahaha just kidding because he's worse than Kalil.

But it still doesn't solve the problem at the position long term, and the Vikings are going to have to decide if Kalil can be the franchise LT he was in 2012, or if they need to draft his replacement. I would think that Kalil is on a 10 game audition, but we'll see how things shake out. And if the Vikings do look for his replacement, it will completely alter their draft strategy, which would be a body blow in getting this team rebuilt for contention. Having to come back and draft a position you thought you had solved is one less pick you can pout towards other needs, and with draft picks at a premium, it might mean waiting another year on a top flight safety, or linebacker. We'll see.

On the interior of the line, there aren't a lot of great options, either. Sullivan is fine; he's still one of the better centers in the NFL even with the bad game on Sunday, but Ducasse and Johnson have got to go. Fusco's injury really hurt, and hopefully he'll be back at 100% next year. But the VIkings will need to find another veteran backup next year, as Ducasse isn't getting it done. He only signed a one year deal, so it will be easy parting ways after the season is over. I get that the coaching staff likes line continuity, an although Wentworth as a LT is something none of us wants to ponder...would it be worth a shot putting him in at RG? I don't think it could hurt, as right now Ducasse is ranked 49th of 74 guards in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

At LG, Johnson is in the first year of a two year deal, and he's being backed up by rookie David Yankey. Yankey seems to be the long term hope at LG, and will probably be the starter this time next year. But right now, Johnson is the guy...and like Ducasse, he's near the bottom of PFF's rankings--59th out of 74. Long term, this doesn't seem to be as bad of a situation as LT, as you can move Yankey into the starter's role and make Johnson your backup next year, let him play out his contract, and avoid any cap hit and dead money.

Unless, of course, the Vikings have whiffed on Yankey like they might have on Kalil. But that's too early to say, because one year is not long enough to make an evaluation on anyone. So they have at least two years to make a decision on him, either way. Still, for a guy that was thought to be a second round talent nabbed in the fifth round, not being able to move ahead of the very pedestrian Johnson is a bit unsettling this far into the season.

So, TL;DR: The Vikings might have to draft another LT next year, which really hurts, because they don't have a long term answer on the roster right now and it will set back upgrading other positions. Johnson and Ducasse are here short term but long term those options look better than LT. Sully and Loadholt should be okay.