Vikings offensive line a mess once again
Guard Joe Berger was asked this week about continuity on the Vikings offensive line.
“We’ve been answering this question for like four years now,″ he said.
He’s right. The Vikings have had to adjust for injuries to key linemen for about that long.
In 2014, guard Brandon Fusco missed 13 games, tackle Phil Loadholt five. In 2015, Loadholt and center John Sullivan missed the entire season. Last year, Minnesota used five different players at left tackle.
Heading into the Vikings’ second preseason game Friday night at Seattle, little has changed. Left tackle Riley Reiff could miss his second game because of a back ailment, and left guard Alex Boone could be out with left knee injury.
The injuries don’t appear to be serious, but they are delaying the progress of what the Vikings hope is finally a reliably good offensive line. If either Reiff or Boone miss Friday’s game, the Vikings likely won’t have more than one preseason game with their starting line intact because starters usually don’t play in the fourth and final exhibition.
“It’s important for the linemen to know what each other’s doing, whether it’s the five same guys or the room in general,” Berger said. “We’ve had some interchangeable parts. I don’t think that’s that big of a deal at this point.”
It doesn’t help that coaches still haven’t chosen a starting center, Nick Easton and rookie Pat Elflein, and now Easton might have to fill in for Boone at left guard against the Seahawks.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked twice while playing three series of a 17-10 win at Buffalo in last week’s preseason opener. He’s figures the sooner the Vikings can have their starting offensive line intact, the better.
“I think it is fairly important,” he said. “I think it would be nice to kind of figure out who those five guys are going to be, just so I can work with them, so they can work with each other, and so the communication at the line can become better and become quicker.”
Rashod Hill mostly has replaced Reiff, who was hurt in practice July 27 and has been limited in workouts since returning Aug. 7. Jeremiah Sirles, T.J. Clemmings and rookie Danny Isidora have gotten first-team work at various spots, as well, and Easton and Elflein have been playing guard.
That might help down the road, Bradford said.
“If something does happen, we do have to make a change, or somebody has got to slide over, it’s not the first time we’ve done that,” he said.
Regardless of personnel, the Vikings’ offensive linemen know they must play better than they did against the Bills. Right tackle Mike Remmers and Hill both allowed sacks, Bradford was under pressure on a few other occasions, and the running game was mostly ineffective.
“It’s obviously very important to make sure we make a step in the right direction,” Remmers said. “We’ve been working really hard this week and are looking forward to the game.”
The Vikings made it a priority during the offseason to beef up the line. They signed Reiff to a five-year, $58.7 million contract and Remmers to a five-year, $30 million deal, and drafted Elflein and Isidora.
Questions still remain, but Berger said it’s important to remember the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against New Orleans is smore than three weeks away.
“Stuff happens,” he said. “It’s the preseason. … We’ll be ready for Week 1, definitely. That’s what we’re here to do.”