Early in training camp, starting RT Brian O’Neill suffered an elbow injury, and was limited and didn’t play in either the second or the third preseason game. In his Wednesday press conference, Zimmer clarified O’Neill’s status:
Mike Zimmer said Brian O'neill will play Sunday— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) September 4, 2019
That’s welcome news indeed, as all five projected starters on the offensive line look to be on track to start the season opener Sunday. Zimmer also addressed the offensive line manning and backups in the wake of the Josh Doctson signing/Brett Jones release:
“That’ll be a fluid situation, but yeah if something happened @elflein65 would go to center.” - Coach Zimmer— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 4, 2019
Not really a big surprise, but it goes to the Vikings mindset and thinking. The Jones move was kind of puzzling to me, but when you consider that the Vikings are as high on Dru Samia and Oli Udoh as they are, and Zimmer confirmed Elflein will flex to center if Bradbury gets hurt, it makes sense.
The Vikings are banking on the long term development of Samia and Udoh, and that they can become solid backups or starters, as opposed to having a known quantity and fairly limited ceiling in Jones. If Udoh and Samia pan out, it’ll be fine. If they have to play this year, though? We’ll see. It makes me nervous, but then again we were told Brian O’Neill was a year away, and he started from week six on and did a fine job.
Is Jones better than Elflein? I don’t think Elflein is as bad as PFF made him out to be his rookie year, and last year he was coming off of two surgeries. Jones’ 90 rating from PFF, or whatever it was, was in preseason. I still think they could have cut a different player, but with the explanation Zimmer provided, I understand it. I like Elflein, and now that he’s finally healthy, I think he’s going to have a bounce back year.
Finally, Zimmer said that he likes the CB depth and Mike Hughes ‘is close’. Does that mean he’ll play? Zimmer didn’t elaborate, so we’ll have to wait until Sunday. My pure, unadulterated guess is that he’s going to be inactive for a game or two, but we’ll see.