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Vikings Training Camp: OL Ups and Downs

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings-Training Camp
Vikings Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Early reports from Vikings training camp have been fairly consistent on several things regarding the offensive line so far, most of them somewhat disappointing, but breaking it down, here is an early summary of how the offensive line is progressing in camp so far.

The Good

  • By almost all accounts, Alex Boone is having a very good camp so far, and seems to have stepped up his game some.
  • Danny Isidora has impressed the coaching staff, looks to have leap-frogged the competition, and seems the heir-apparent to Joe Berger at right-guard.
  • Nick Easton has done surprisingly well in competition against 3rd round pick Pat Elflein. He continues to get most of the first-team reps, and if that continues much longer, he may end up the starting center.
  • Rashod Hill seems to be benefiting from reps with the first-team in Riley Reiff’s absence, although based on Mike Zimmer’s comments, he doesn’t seem to be ready to challenge for a starting spot just yet.

The Bad

  • Most reports have Joe Berger not looking so good in camp so far, which is a disappointment. Hopefully this is just the veteran easing into training camp for the last time rather than a sign of a short-timer mentality and fall off in performance.
  • Jeremiah Sirles has not looked good either. This is not a good sign after having started or played in most games last year. Expectations were for him to build on that experience this year, and develop into a quality starter. At this point, that doesn’t appear to be happening.
  • Austin Shepherd has also not done well. He has been beaten consistently and for a guy that has hung around the past couple years, he doesn’t look like he gonna make the cut this year.
  • Riley Reiff has not played due to some sort of back injury, which appears to be day-to-day based on Mike Zimmer’s comments. Obviously the longer he’s out the more concerning that is, as it would be a sign of more complications. In any case, he’s missing valuable time to be working with his new team and system, which isn’t good.
  • Pat Elflein has perhaps been a little disappointing, in that he hasn’t been able to gain an early advantage over a veteran UDFA for the starting center position. It will be interesting what happens with him if he doesn’t win the starting center job.
  • Aviante Collins hasn’t been getting many reps, and apparently did not do as well earlier in rookie camp.

The Ugly

  • The starting defensive line has dominated the offensive line pretty consistently, in one-on-one drills and in team drills, particularly the starting defensive ends, but also Linval Joseph. Especially with Riley Reiff out, none of this is much of a surprise. But you would hope the offensive line would present more of a challenge to what looks like one of the best defensive lines in the league this year.
  • Mike Remmers’ pass protection. Early reports suggest he’s doing about as well against Danielle Hunter in pass protection as he did against Von Miller in the Super Bowl.

Bottom Line

Apart from Alex Boone and Nick Easton, and Danny Isidora as a rookie, it doesn’t appear that anybody is stepping up significantly. The fact that all the right tackles have not shown any better, and some of them worse- or not at all- is clearly a disappointment.

The fact that the improved players are already in positions of relative strength along the offensive line (basically the interior line), while the competition at tackle has been underwhelming, is a cause for some concern early on.

Looking Ahead

The first pre-season game at Buffalo is a week from today. That should provide a good indication of where the offensive line is at in it’s development. The second pre-season game at Seattle probably even more so. Early indications are that there is still a lot of work to do for the Vikings OL to get back up to an average ranking, and a lot of question marks to be resolved.

One addition of note:

Peter King from mmqb/si was in Mankato and interviewed by Mike Wobshall at vikings.com. His quote on the Vikings offensive line:

I’ve been covering the NFL for 34 years, and I’ve never seen offensive line play as bad as the Vikings last year. I don’t think they’ve gotten much better.

I often discount national reporters insight into any one particular team, as they don’t spend enough time with them, but nevertheless, not exactly encouraging.