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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zimmer says Vikings still figuring out right guard; what are the options?

By Matthew Coller

Once free agency opened, the Minnesota Vikings got to work fixing both right and left tackle by signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. But the Vikings are yet to make another move to address the right guard position, which was opened up by the release of Brandon Fusco.

Speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners meetings, head coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that work still has to be done at right guard.

Zimmer asked if he has five starting o-linemen: “I think I have four. We still have to figure out the right guard spot.”

— Mark Craig (@markcraignfl) March 29, 2017

There are four ways possible directions the Vikings could go:

  • Start Joe Berger at right guard and either make Nick Easton starting center or draft a center
  • Draft a starting guard
  • Sign a free agent veteran guard or center
  • Move Jeremiah Sirles to right guard

Zimmer floated the idea of moving Berger to guard full time after being impressed with his cameo at the spot late last year.

Zimmer hints at moving Berger to guard, does a move make sense?

Free agency

Free agency may have cooled to a simmer, but there are still some decent interior offensive linemen who have not yet found teams. Veteran guard Evan Mathis was injured last season and was only on the field for 199 snaps, but Pro Football Focus rated him as an elite guard from 2011-2014, then still in the top tier in 2015.

New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans is also still unsigned. He was a key cog during the heyday of the Saints’ offense, but has shown some signs of aging. Still, Pro Football Focus rated him 36th among guards (out of 71) last year and 20th in pass blocking.

Veteran guard Chris Chester played more than 1,200 snaps on a good Atlanta Falcons offensive line last season. The PFF ratings, however, make him appear as a weak link rather than a driver of their performance. Chester still rated mid-pack (37th) in run blocking but struggled in pass protected (62nd).

There’s also the possibility of signing former Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold and moving Berger to guard. While Mangold isn’t playing at a Hall of Fame level as he once was, he could still provide stability at the position if Nick Easton isn’t ready for a full-time gig.

Draft

You’ve heard draft analysts talk about this year’s group of offensive linemen being weak. While that may be true, it could also cause teams to focus there interests on deeper positions and leave the Vikings with the chance to draft a solid prospect at No. 48 overall.

Two players who have been linked to the Vikings in mock drafts (ones that actually get to the second round) are versatile interior linemen Dan Feeney (Indiana) and Ethan Pocic (LSU).

Feeney’s NFL.com Draft Profile describes him as a smart player who could start right away:

“Four-year starter and two-time team captain, Feeney has been the consistent anchor along an Indiana offensive line that helped to produce NFL running backs Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. Feeney is a quality zone blocker with an ability to pull and lead the charge, but he might lack the play strength to become a reliable base blocker. His intelligence and ability to operate in space and protect the quarterback could make him an early starter with a ceiling of above-average NFL guard or center.”

Pocic is regarded as having high football IQ, which may attract the Vikings. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote:

“Flexible, natural athlete with starting experience all along the LSU offensive line. Scouts say Pocic has the intelligence teams look for from a center and is highly regarded by LSU coaches and teammates in the locker room. Pocic is an excellent “work-up” blocker with the ability to thrive in a running game that operates in space, but his lack of power will produce some extremely challenging matchups for him at times.”

There are other names that could be in the mix for a third round pick like G/T Taylor Moton of Western Michigan and C/G Ohio State’s Pat Elfein.

If the Vikings are thinking about a draft-and-start situation, they should have a contingency plan in case their pick isn’t ready to go from Day 1.

Jeremiah Sirles

Sirles might be said contingency plan. At right tackle last season, he struggled with speedy edge rushers and rated poorly in pass protection, but after reviewing All-22 tape, it appears he could be a capable run blocker and has the size/strength to face off with defensive tackles.

The Vikings have clearly liked Sirles, acquiring him in a trade with the San Diego Chargers, but asking him to start at guard with hardly any experience in the NFL at that position might be a bit much. It would make the most sense to sign a veteran, draft a guard and have Sirles in the mix during training camp to see if he has a future at the spot.

The post Zimmer says Vikings still figuring out right guard; what are the options? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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