Coming in to training camp, the big question mark most fans had about the team was the offensive line. C Pat Elflein and G Nick Easton, two starters from last year, were injured late in the season or during the playoffs, and it was expected both would be back when training camp began.
One week in, Elflein is on the PUP and has yet to practice, but seems to be getting closer to the field every day.
Nick Easton is going in the opposite direction, it appears. He began camp healthy, and he seemed to be fully recovered from his season finale broken ankle. But he missed a practice or two last week, and was held out of the Saturday Night Family Scrimmage.
Now today, we hear that things might be more dire than a typical ding we see in training camp. Per ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin:
Vikings left guard Nick Easton will seek a second opinion this week for neck and back injuries, a source tells ESPN. Easton missed Saturday's practice and is being held out today along with starters Pat Elflein and Mike Remmers. Third-string center Cornelius Edison is working...— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) August 6, 2018
Yeah, you generally don’t get a second opinion unless the first one gives you news you really don’t want to hear, so who knows what this means. And since it was a broken ankle that sidelined Easton last year, dual back and neck injuries is a development that doesn’t appear good no matter how you slice it.
So, where does that leave the Vikings offensive line? It’s pretty thin already, and although it’s still too early to use the word ‘bleak’, the frustration level for fans that thought not addressing the o-line adequately is in mid-season form. Don’t believe me? Read the replies to Cronin’s tweet above. Here was the Vikings ‘first team’ offensive line for both of today’s practices:
First team OL this morning (L-R): Reiff, Compton, Edison, Isidora, Hill. #Vikings— Vikings Corner (@VikingsCorner) August 6, 2018
LT: Riley Reiff
LG: Tom Compton
C: Cornelius Edison...I say again Cornelius Edison...not to be confused with Yukon Cornelius
RG: Danny Isidora
RT: Rashod Hill
Along with Easton and Elflein, projected starting RG Mike Remmers rolled up his ankle the first day of full pads last week, and hasn’t practiced since.
Part of me says ‘they’ve been practicing one week, calm down’, and that’s a fair reaction to have. It’s been one week, and we’re still over a month away from the regular season opener. That’s plenty of time for guys to get healthy and be ready for the regular season. I don’t put a lot of stock in the pre-season, as we’ve seen time and time again a team can look great in August and stumble all over themselves when the games start counting.
Like last year, for example. Our very own Minnesota Vikings offense struggled mightily in the pre-season, barely even able to make a first down. Reiff hurt himself early and missed most of the pre-season...but whengames counted the Vikes offense was legit good almost all season, and Reiff didn’t give up a sack until week 10. Like I may have possibly infamously tweeted this morning before Cronin’s afternoon tweet:
For the 'sky is falling' crowd re: the #Vikings offensive line this morning:— Ted Glover (@purplebuckeye) August 6, 2018
Calm down. Riley Reiff missed almost the entire pre-season and was fine last year. I'm not going to be worried until I hear 'out for 4-5 weeks'
The other part of me is officially starting to get worried. Maybe what Easton has is a quick fix, and it does seem like Remmers and Elflein will be practicing sooner rather than later. If I had to guess, I’ll put Remmers being on the field before Elflein, but that’s just me.
But the longer this team goes without three key components of the offensive line sidelined, the longer it will take that unit to all get on the same page, and missing a lot of training camp time hurts. Yeah, Reiff didn’t miss a beat last year, but he was one guy, and a veteran that’s been in the league awhile. It wasn’t that big of a deal.
That’s different than your three interior starters missing significant time for injuries, and they have yet to all practice together since training camp began.