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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Vikings not immune to NFL’s issue with offensive line prospects

By Andrew Krammer

INDIANAPOLIS — John Schneider is already seeing the NFL’s problem in grade school.

“Over the last 10-15 years, heck my sixth-grade son’s team runs a spread offense,” said Schneider, the Seattle Seahawks’ general manager. “[Offensive linemen] are not learning how to play football the way we did. We are going through a generational shift.”

More and more college offenses have shifted toward the ‘spread’ system, referencing what it does to spread out defenders by using shotgun formations and wide splits. These aren’t new concepts, but NFL teams are claiming a trickle-down effect saying offensive line prospects often aren’t prepared for pro-style offenses.

The readiness of offensive line prospects is one potential pitfall for the Vikings, a franchise with the No. 23-overall pick looking to bolster their trenches through the draft. While they may pivot toward a “Teddy Bridgewater offense,” which references the shotgun and spread elements, they’re still dominated by a power-running scheme as long as Adrian Peterson is on the roster. However, this offseason Peterson is out to prove he can be “just as effective” from the shotgun entering his 10th NFL season, according to Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

Either way, they’re searching for immediate impact along the offensive line, which means finding the most pro-ready prospects. The last two drafts haven’t produced much help, with four offensive linemen selected and only two players (T.J. Clemmings, Austin Shepherd) remaining on the roster.

“It’s just the way the game has developed in college,” Spielman said. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. With the restrictions we have with the [collective bargaining agreement], and our coaches being able to take guys that come from spread offenses — 99.9 percent of the time they’re working out of a 2-point stance — [and] teach them how to get into a 3-point stance, how to run block. That takes time and development.”

Another contributor to the issue of ‘pro-readiness’ was created when the rest of college football followed the Ivy League’s lead by implementing rule changes to limit full-contact practices.

“In college football, they are not allowed as much time as they used to have with guys on an individual basis,” Schneider said. “So you’re seeing a lot of teams just going to a little bit of individual [practice] and then getting out there and going to team, because they’ve got to win games.”

The burden falls on NFL coaching staffs to almost build from the ground up. As the Vikings sort through their options, like Kansas State’s coveted guard Cody Whitehair, they’re tasked with projecting whether or not a player can thrive in a different style of play. Whitehair, who said he spoke with Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano twice at the Senior Bowl and once already at the combine, played his last two seasons as a tackle in a two-point stance. Though his transition could be smoother as he’s projected at guard in the NFL, where he played as a freshman and sophomore.

There are college pro-style offenses such as Alabama, Michigan State and Stanford. Though more often teams are running into prospects like Whitehair or former Texas Tech tackle Le’Raven Clark, who said he’s made a three-point stance his main draft preparation.

“That’s what I’ve been working on since I left,” Clark said.

A lot left?

Brian Robison bought in, felt he made sacrifices for the team and the Vikings were pleased with his production on one of the NFL’s top scoring defenses.

Though natural questions arise about his future as he turns 33 in April, having played more than 900 snaps in each of the last five seasons. He’s admittedly redefined success in a new system with just 9.5 sacks in the last two years, all under head coach Mike Zimmer, but it doesn’t sound like Robison is going anywhere.

“Brian played, we thought, very well for us,” Spielman said. “I think he still has a lot of play in him. How his role increases or decreases, that will be determined as we go through training camp and this offseason. But he still is not only a valuable football player for us, but extremely valuable from a leadership standpoint.”

Robison is under contract for the next two seasons and currently commands a $5.25 million cap hit for 2016.

Quiet time

With more than a week between the scouting combine and start of NFL free agency, on March 9, there doesn’t appear to be much of a rush in the Vikings locking up their own free agents.

The 2015 regular season started late, and the Vikings extended it with one postseason game, so the focus has been on the draft and free agent markets, Spielman said, before finalizing their financial puzzle. They sat down to evaluate their own roster and free agents right after the season, but decisions likely won’t be made this week.

“So those will probably be determined when we finish the work we need to get done here [in Indianapolis],” Spielman said.

The Vikings’ pending free agents: CB Terence Newman, LB Chad Greenway, OL Mike Harris, TE Rhett Ellison, RB Matt Asiata, CB Marcus Sherels, S Andrew Sendejo, DE Justin Trattou, LB Audie Cole, LB Casey Matthews, CB Josh Robinson, S Robert Blanton, LB Jason Trusnik and FB Zach Line+

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The post Notebook: Vikings not immune to NFL’s issue with offensive line prospects appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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