It’s still a couple months before training camp is officially underway, but now that the draft is over, and most of the free agency activity is over, we can start to look at some positions where there could be some interesting battles going on for starting or depth roles as the Vikings look to upgrade their roster wherever they can.
Let’s start with right tackle.
Have you noticed that the Vikings have a lot of offensive linemen on the roster that have either played mostly right tackle and/or could be a fit there? I count at least six potential candidates.
The Vikings just acquired Mike Remmers to provide an experienced veteran at the right tackle spot- and he didn’t come cheap either considering he has only been an average right tackle - so you’d have to give him the starting job by default at this point.
But that fact that Remmers has only been an average performer at right tackle - which could be his ceiling at this point in his career given his physical attributes- does open the door for competition at that spot. Let’s take a closer look.
Remmers went undrafted in 2012 and bounced around a few teams (including the Vikings) for a couple years before landing the starting gig in Carolina in 2014. He had two average years at right tackle there, followed by a below-average 2016 season primarily because an injury to their starting left tackle forced him to play out-of-position there most of the year.
Looking at his overall PFF grades, Remmers earned a 65.7 rating in 2013, 72.8 in 2014, 72.2 in 2015, and 66.1 last year. Last year, which was mostly at left tackle, Remmers earned a poor (50.0) rating in pass blocking, and an average (73.5) rating in run blocking. Presumably his pass protection rating would have been a little higher had he played right tackle all of last year, but likely still below average.
Remmers’ best year was 2015, which was an up-and-down season for Remmers, with 5 games where he rated relatively high, and the rest not-so-much. The season ended in a total mismatch against Von Miller, who went right through Remmers to multiple sacks and the Super Bowl MVP award. On the positive side, Remmers did have a streak of 425 snaps without allowing a sack.
At 6’5”, 310lbs., Remmers is adequate size for a right tackle, but reportedly has very short (31.25”) arms, and average athleticism for the position. He benched only 20 reps at his pro-day, but presumably has been able to improve his upper-body and core strength over the past five years. He has been described as a hard worker and effort guy, who also takes coaching well.
Overall, Remmers is a player most teams would prefer to be their backup swing tackle, who could get them through an injury in a pinch, rather than their starter. Nevertheless, Remmers brings some value to the Vikings as an experienced, if average, right tackle to help shore-up the position after the debacle of last year. But that value does not preclude another player from beating him out for the starting role.
Sirles has a lot in common with Remmers as a player. Like Remmers, Sirles was an undrafted free agent who spent a couple years in the league before becoming a starter last year for the Vikings at right tackle, and is considered to have average athleticism for the position, and has similar size. And like Remmers, Sirles earned slightly below average ratings from PFF last year - 67.2 overall, with a 50.2 pass pro grade and a 75.4 run blocking grade.
Both Remmers and Sirles got eaten alive when facing top-tier talent. Remmers in the Super Bowl against Von Miller, and Sirles last year in Philadelphia against Brandon Graham.
Where Sirles has some advantage over Remmers is in his arm length, which is much more desirable 34 1/8”. Sirles also has perhaps greater potential to improve over last year, as it was his first action in the NFL, and having another year to improve his upper body (he only had 21 benchpress reps pre-draft) and core strength would help him too. Here is a a pre-draft profile of Sirles.
Overall, with a typical amount of improvement you might expect from a player after his first year on the field, Sirles could be in a position to challenge Remmers for the starting gig at right tackle. It’s not outlandish to see that level of improvement, but whether Sirles can show it during training camp and pre-season remains to be seen.
It would be a pretty big surprise if Collins were able to win the starting right tackle spot as a rookie UFA, but when those above him are average performers with some physical limitations that lower their ceiling, a strong training camp and pre-season could be enough to get the starting nod. He’d have to earn those reps though, and impress the coaching staff pretty well to get their consideration for a starting role.
Collins has some advantages over Remmers and Sirles, as he is a better athlete (4.81” 40 time), and with 34 benchpress reps at the Combine, has shown greater upper-body strength. He is a little undersized for right tackle at 295lbs. and 6’4” (Vikings have him listed at 6’6”), but not dramatically so. Collins has 33 3/8” arms, which is not ideal, but longer than Remmers’.
But looking at Collins’ tape at TCU, where he played right tackle, there is a lot to like. It’s not against NFL caliber competition for the most part, but Collins doesn’t seem to have much trouble with his guy most of the time. Once or twice I noticed he had trouble picking up a blitzing linebacker off the edge, but apart from that he looked pretty well in control- dominating even at times.
His strength shows up a lot on tape, and he shows good footwork and athleticism most of the time too. On the blitzing linebackers where he gave up pressure, they used a swim move to get by him, so that is something for him to work on.
There are other technique issues that can be improved as well- sometimes his pad level can be a little high- something he got away with at TCU but wouldn’t in the NFL as much- and his hand placement can be too far outside at times, which again he got away with at TCU most of the time, but will cause more problems against NFL edge rushers and could also result in holding calls.
But the main thing you really notice is his tenacity, sticking with blocks. He never seemed overwhelmed or lacking in power. He always looked in control, sometimes dominating, and ready for more. See his draft profile here. I agree with the assessment that the more you see of Collins, the more you like.
The big question mark for Collins is how will he react to the NFL game and NFL-level competition. He looks ready for it, but it will also test his technique. If he takes well to coaching and the step-up in competition, he could challenge for a starting position sooner rather than later.
Best of the Rest
TJ Clemmings, Austin Shepherd, and Willie Beavers are all candidates for right tackle as well, but less compelling at this point.
TJ Clemmings has the desired physical traits to play either tackle position, but after being forced into starting duty as a raw 4th round draft pick two years in a row, with disastrous results, he needs some time to lick his wounds and work on his technique.
Austin Shepherd is really a younger version of Mike Remmers, and has his basic set of pros and cons. For that reason it’s hard to see him rising to the top of this competition, as either the more experienced Remmers or Sirles, or more athletic Collins seem more compelling.
Willie Beavers not being able to make the active roster last year was a strong indication of his readiness, and seem to confirm his PFF ratings as the 2nd worst tackle (226/227) in all of the FBS in 2015. The fact that those results were against Mid-America conference competition doesn’t make it any better either. His draft profile suggests good footwork and athleticism, but his Combine results show an average athlete similar to Sirles, but with shorter arms. Beavers only had 20 reps on the bench at the Combine as well, so upper-body and core strength could be an issue as well. He’s had a year now to work on building strength and improving technique, but given his starting point it seems rather unlikely he’ll take such a leap this year as to be a contender for anything more than a backup.
The Vikings got who they could in the free agent market by acquiring Mike Remmers, who at least brings a demonstrated ability to be an average right tackle, which is an upgrade over last year. But clearly the hope is that another player with a higher-ceiling will step-up and further upgrade over Remmers, and become a long-term solution at a key position along the offensive line.
Watching the candidates battle against Danielle Hunter in training camp should be a key measure for coaches to evaluate who has the best stuff come the regular season.
Who will be the starting right tackle for the Vikings to begin the regular season?
This poll is closed