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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Could an offer sheet solve the Vikings’ problems at tackle?

By Matthew Coller

Ponce de Leon didn’t look as far and wide for the fountain of youth as the Minnesota Vikings will be for tackles this offseason.

While players like Andrew Whitworth, Rick Wagner and Riley Reiff are becoming household names, there hasn’t been much chatter about New England Patriots Restricted Free Agent Cameron Fleming.

In part, that’s because Fleming only started two games for the Pats last year as Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder owned the two full-time spots. But the 24-year-old tackle showed promise in his two contests – one at left tackle matching up against Chandler Jones and the other at right tackle against the Cleveland Browns. So he basically faced the best and the worst pass rushes in the league.

Against Arizona, the Patriots tried exceptionally hard to get the ball out quick and help Fleming with Jones. While he was occasionally shaky, Fleming managed to get through the game without allowing a sack or QB hit.

He was more effective at right tackle against Cleveland. Here is an example of Fleming getting out of his stance quickly and using his long arms (No. 71, left side of the screen).

Head coach Bill Belichick, famous for being short on words, raved about his young tackle after his performance against the Browns.

“Cam has done a good job for us and he’s one of our most dependable players,” Belichick said. “He’s very smart and he works extremely hard. For his size he works very hard on his conditioning and he really doesn’t get tired, or at least it doesn’t seem like he does. He’s right at the top of his group in sprints and works hard in the weight room, both on strength and flexibility and does a lot of extra things to try to continue to improve.

“I think he’s quiet, but he’s probably one of the most respected players on the team because of his work ethic and his toughness and his dependability. We’ve asked him to do a lot of different things, play multiple positions, guard, both tackles, the jumbo tight end spot and he works very hard to do all of those, and as I said his intelligence is excellent.”

Flemning’s intelligence is excellent, indeed. He has a degree in aeronautics and astronautics.

During both games, the Patriots regularly used similar play-action blocking concepts as the Vikings, with linemen selling the run while the quarterback rolls out. That helped mitigate some of Flemings’ weaknesses, which his NFL.com draft profile outlined.

“Thick, tight hips. Needs to improve footwork. Can be impatient in pass protection. Tends to bend at the waist. Could be stressed by quicker rushers. Average sustain. Does not generate power through his core. Balance and coordination wanes on the second level — struggles connecting with moving targets. Does not consistently block through the whistle and could become a better, nastier finisher.”

Tom Brady was only pressured one time against the Browns on account of Fleming, but it was an example of his over-aggressiveness.

More road blocks exist to acquire Fleming than an Unrestricted Free Agent. Signing him could cost the Vikings a draft pick – most likely a third-round selection if the Patriots sign him to a tender. New England would also have the option to match. As excellent as Nate Solder was in 2016, age will catch up soon and it’s possible the Patriots see Fleming as his eventual replacement.

But if New England was willing to let him walk, the price would almost certainly be lower than top right tackle free agents like Wagner and Reiff.

At just 24 and with most of his NFL experience coming as an extra blocker in run situations, the biggest concern about throwing a lot of money in Fleming’s direction is that there is a very small sample size of performance to draw from. However, rarely is there a a chance in NFL free agency to make a move that benefits the near future and long term, but Fleming might offer the Vikings that opportunity.

The post Could an offer sheet solve the Vikings’ problems at tackle? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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