Last year, the Minnesota Vikings had, on paper, a sound plan to address what had become a porous offensive line in 2014. They signed FA Andre Smith, Matt Kalil seemed to be healthy for the first time in two seasons, and most importantly, they were expecting to get back C John Sullivan and RT Phil Loadholt, two players that had missed all of 2014 due to injury.
That plan started falling apart before training camp even began, as Loadholt announced his retirement. And that was just the beginning, as Smith was hurt and went on IR early in the season, as did Kalil. And the injuries kept piling up for the offensive line, to levels that just became comical once free agent signee Jake Long ruptured his Achilles and HE had to go on IR.
But this year? Well, it’s not last year.
“What’s different? Everything. New team, new year”, said Vikings RG Joe Berger. Yes, you read that right, right guard Joe Berger. Berger, who has played up and down the Vikings line, spent the last two years at center. This year, he’s moving to right guard, and the center position will be taken over by either Nick Easton or rookie Pat Elflein.
And In free agency, the Vikings addressed the tackle position by signing Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff. So on paper, it seems, the Vikings have talent and depth to weather an injury or two. that’s already happened, as Reiff has a slight ‘tweak’, as the team has called it, and he’s been replaced at practice by Rashod Hill.
So, what’s the biggest obstacle when working with new players, or familiar players at new positions, communication or technique?
“Oh, communication for sure”, said Berger. “Getting aligned right, making sure assignments are covered, that kind of thing.”
As for Berger himself, going from one position to another isn’t something that bothers him, but it is something he has to work on.
“Footwork is the big thing, and I’ve been working on that a lot.”
So for the Vikings offensive line, 2015 and 2016 are a thing of the past. It’s time to turn the page.
New team, new year.