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Vikings have Ezra Cleveland practicing at guard early on

The eternal shuffle continues

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings selected Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, many around these parts asked the question that we see connected to just about every Vikings’ offensive lineman. . .

Can he play guard?

If the early part of Training Camp is any indication, the Vikings would like an answer to that question as well.

Vikings’ offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak addressed the media on Tuesday, and shared some news about the offensive line. One of those items was that the Vikings were playing Cleveland at one of the guard spots. He also emphasized that current left tackle Riley Reiff is not moving inside to guard.

“No,” Kubiak said when asked about possibly moving Reiff to guard. “I think Riley played really well for us last year. I think we can do some things offensively and me as a play caller to help all our players and help Riley more, from that standpoint.

“I’m a big Riley Reiff fan. I love him as a person, a player and a leader on our team. Nobody comes here more ready to work than Riley. It showed,” Kubiak added. “We haven’t seen these guys, but watching him walk in, you can see his detail. Expecting Riley to have a great year.”

With camp finally getting underway, the Vikings are apparently rolling with four of the same five starters that they had on the offensive line last season. Reiff is at left tackle, Pat Elflein at left guard, Garrett Bradbury at center, and Brian O’Neill at right tackle. That leaves the right guard spot open, and Cleveland has been getting some of the focus there along with Aviante Collins and Dakota Dozier.

Just from looking at the story on the Vikings’ website (linked above) about Kubiak’s press conference today, he doesn’t mention players like Dru Samia or Oli Udoh (though the latter make sense as he’s still on the COVID-19 list). I’m not sure if there’s actually going to be a battle for the left guard spot given the disappointing season that Elflein had in 2019. Elflein is going into the last year of his deal and could be given another chance to turn things around, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t at least pushed by some of the younger players.

As we’ve been saying forever, it seems, the offensive line is going to be a key to how the Minnesota Vikings perform in 2020. The line has gotten incrementally better over the past couple of seasons, but now would be a good time for them to take a significant step forward. Can Kubiak and Rick Dennison make it happen?