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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: With Kalil’s injury, O-line could become Vikings’ undoing

By Judd Zulgad

The news that Adrian Peterson would be undergoing surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee had leaked out long before Vikings coach Mike Zimmer began his press conference Wednesday at Winter Park.

But Zimmer still managed to provide a surprise when he revealed that left tackle Matt Kalil had been placed on injured reserve and was headed for surgery on a hip that has bothered him for an undetermined amount of time.

If I could summarize the reaction of many Vikings fans to the news about Peterson and Kalil it was this: This offense will be just as good, or better, with the more versatile Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata as the running backs, and Kalil hasn’t been worth a you-know-what since he had a standout rookie season in 2012.

In other words, the loss of these two isn’t that big deal.

Peterson is likely to miss three-to-four months, meaning his time as a Viking could be finished. While I’m not on the bandwagon that the Vikings are definitely better without him, I’ll admit that I am curious to see what the offensive coaching staff will cook up with Sam Bradford and Stefon Diggs as the focal points and running backs who are better blockers and receivers than Peterson ever has been.

The Kalil injury, however, is another subject.

Much was expected of Kalil when he was made the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, and he has far too often looked like a bust.

But before you celebrate Kalil’s injury, and likely exit from Minnesota, understand this: The Vikings’ offensive line was a mess before Kalil was injured and this only makes matters worse.

The Vikings immediate plan is to move T.J. Clemmings to left tackle and hope he can protect Bradford’s blindside. Clemmings, who was moved from defensive line to the offensive line for his final two seasons at Pitt and was a fourth-round pick by the Vikings in 2015, struggled last season to hold up as Phil Loadholt’s replacement at right tackle.

The Vikings began to work Clemmings in at both tackle positions this offseason. Now, he’s going to be trusted to play the most important position on the line, alongside high-priced left guard Alex Boone, who hasn’t wowed anybody so far.

Center Joe Berger has held his own but right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Andre Smith have been mostly brutal. In fact, you could have made a case that Clemmings was close to replacing Smith at right tackle before this.

The Vikings’ offensive line was so poor last season that position coach Jeff Davidson essentially was fired as the team left the field following the playoff loss to Seattle.

Tony Sparano, who has NFL head coaching and coordinator experience, was brought in and additions were made to create depth. Boone was the Vikings’ biggest offseason free-agent addition, receiving a four-year, $26.8 million contract, and there was expected to be competition at center (Berger vs. John Sullivan), right guard (Fusco vs. Mike Harris) and right tackle (Smith vs. Phil Loadholt).

Loadholt, attempting to return from a ruptured Achilles’, never made it to training camp, announcing his retirement after suffering a setback. Harris has an ailment that is so mysterious that no one around Winter Park will discuss it, and it appears Sullivan’s surgically repaired back remained an issue since no team has picked him up since he was released in late August.

The thought that the Vikings had depth on the line has gone up in smoke and now the remaining members of the unit are making us long for the return of Davidson as the position coach.

When quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Vikings traded first- and fourth-round draft picks for Bradford because they believed the team still had an excellent chance to win in 2016. This wasn’t a misguided idea. The Vikings have the type of defense that we haven’t seen in these parts for many years and are 2-0 in large part because of that.

But as much as we might believe the 31-year-old Peterson had slowed before this knee injury, the reality is he stood little chance of finding a hole to run through because the line didn’t open many, if any, in the first two games. In Sunday’s victory against the Packers, it got even worse when the pass protection began to fail on a regular basis.

There will be suggestions in the coming days and weeks that general manager Rick Spielman might want to consider mortgaging more of the Vikings’ future by trading draft picks for a high-caliber left tackle. I’m not sure Spielman can stomach giving up any more first-round selections.

But I’m also sure of this: If this depleted offensive line doesn’t begin to play much better, the running back will continue to sputter and Bradford soon will be joining Kalil, Peterson and Bridgewater on the sideline.

At that point, a once promising season almost surely will be sunk.

The post Zulgad: With Kalil’s injury, O-line could become Vikings’ undoing appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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