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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings’ O-line depth is strong, but they will miss Nick Easton’s toughness, mobility

By Matthew Coller

GREEN BAY, WIS. – The Minnesota Vikings’ success on offense this season has started with improvements along the offensive line.

They have been praised by head coach Mike Zimmer as a tough group and their mobility has played a major role in the team’s run and short-pass success.

Throughout they year, the Vikings’ O-line has overcome the absence of Mike Remmers for several games and Riley Reiff against the Cincinnati Bengals. But the loss of guard Nick Easton to an ankle injury could be a significant blow as the Vikings head into the playoffs.

“He brings that grit, man,” defensive tackle Tom Johnson said of Easton. “He plays every snap like he’s got a chip on his shoulder. We are going to miss him…if he’s going to miss time, we’re definitely going to miss him in our offensive line. He was playing real well, very dependable. He brings that grit, that attitude, he’s like a gnat, he frustrates guys. He’s a big part of our offensive line.”

The Vikings chose to start Easton and move on from veteran Alex Boone before the season because of his quickness and ability to get to the second level. He has created a number of explosive plays on screen passes this season.

“He did a good job using his strong points,” running back Jerick McKinnon said. “He runs really well, he’s tough and he’s a hard-nosed guard. He had a good year…whoever’s next will have to step up and fill that void. Those guys have been doing a great job all year.”

McKinnon has been on the right end of a number of those screens this season, gaining 421 yards on 51 receptions. He only had one against the Packers in Saturday night’s 16-0 win.

The man tasked with filling that void is Jeremiah Sirles, who has filled in at both guard and right tackle this year.

“I just try and prep every week for playing every position,” Sirles said. “You never know what’s going to happen. I just try to make sure my preparation continues no matter who’s playing where.”

The Vikings’ O-line is dinged up beyond just Easton’s injury. Reiff was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury, but played against Green Bay. Center Pat Elflein has dealt with a shoulder injury.

“We always stress that everybody be ready and we prepare that way,” Elflein said. “Guys get reps in practice and it’s a credit to those guys being ready to play when they’re called on. It’s awesome, guys step up and play.”

One thing that will help the Vikings make up the difference if Elflein’s growth. He’s performed exceptionally down the stretch, becoming the centerpiece of the O-line.

”My main thing was the mental aspect,” Elflein said. “Being able to see defenses and read defenses and being able to do it quicker than in the first game. That’s probably my biggest thing and I feel like I’ve taken a step. That just comes from practice.”

The post Vikings’ O-line depth is strong, but they will miss Nick Easton’s toughness, mobility appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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