The Vikings haven’t played a preseason game yet, and things are already going wrong. So let’s take a look at the panic meter.
Here’s our scale: 1 is completely relaxed, 5 is anytime Kai Forbath attempts an extra point and 10 is this.
Spoiler: we have not reached this level.
What happened recently?
Well, there were a few injuries. The worst of it came earlier today when Adam Schefter reported that Nick Easton will likely miss the entire 2018 season due to a herniated disc in his neck. The Vikings have also dealt with other injuries on the offensive line throughout training camp, as Pat Elflein and Mike Remmers have both been out.
Easton had been listed as the starter at left guard, so he’ll obviously need to be replaced. It’s important to note that even before any injuries, the Vikings offensive line was rated as the league’s 28th-best by Pro Football Focus. For a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and one of the league’s best all-around rosters, this was always going to be the biggest question mark. Easton’s absence will absolutely make it an even bigger one.
Ok, so we’re screwed, right?
Well, no. But let’s play it out. The Vikings offensive line finished the 2017 season ranked 22nd by PFF, which was an improvement from 2016 when the unit finished 29th. So despite the improvement, there were still issues.
To push this further, the line was consistently bailed out by Case Keenum’s ability to perform under pressure. Keenum led the NFL in QB rating under pressure in 2017 with one of the league’s highest pressure rates. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins finished with average numbers in DVOA with pressure numbers. The point is that in 2017, subpar offensive line play was sometimes buoyed by Keenum’s ability to make plays under pressure. It’s unlikely Cousins will be able to do that at the same level, although no one would’ve said Keenum could do it at this time last year.
If Elflein and Remmers return before the season starts, the Vikings can replace Easton with Tom Compton, Danny Isidora or a free agent guard and trot out a similar offensive line to last season. It’s tough to lose a starter this early, but given the rest of the roster, I’m not too concerned at this point. And, importantly...
It’s August 9.
So no, the sky is not falling. Every team deals with injuries in training camp. The Vikings offensive line has some work to do, and we’ll get a chance to see them for at least a little bit of action against Keenum and the Broncos on Saturday in Denver. This isn’t to say there aren’t reasons to be concerned, but the regular season is still a month away. And this is a team that went to the NFC title game with a worse roster a season ago.
In case you really want to panic...
Anthony Barr still hasn’t signed a contract extension. Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes were held out of practice yesterday for “undisciplined stuff.”
But there’s not much else to talk about. The panic meter is relatively quiet as we start the season. Hopefully it stays there.
Training camp panic meter: 2/10.