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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Which offensive line combination will the Vikings land on?

By Matthew Coller

As we analyze the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line troubles during the preseason, it’s worth remembering they started a line combination in Week 1 last year that had never played together in the preseason. And for most of the 2017 season, the Vikings’ line was somewhere between good and average until late-season injuries finally caught up with them.

So there isn’t yet reason to be mashing the panic button, but following Saturday’s rough first-team performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, head coach Mike ZImmer acknowledged that the line needs to get its issues resolved within the next few weeks.

“We’ve got to get on the stick here pretty quick,” Zimmer said. “I think Remmers will be back next week, which will be good. I think [Pat] Elflein has a chance to get back here pretty soon, that will help. I don’t know about Rashod yet, so we’ll see. But, yeah, it’s tough. We’re not the only ones in the league to be having these issues, I’m sure. We just have a few more than we should have at this point in time. It’s life.”

Following Saturday’s game, the Vikings’ QB praised the players who have been able to step in during the preseason and talked about his approach to handling changes up front.

“It’s not ideal but I’ve never gone into a season expecting ideal circumstances or ideal outcomes,” Cousins said. “You learn to just roll with the punches in this league. You can’t start to say, ‘Well that’s not how you drew it up so now we are not going to plan on doing great things.’”

On Monday, Remmers and Hill did not participate in 11-on-11s, though they were both in pads. There is still no sign yet of Pat Elflein, who was outstanding as a rookie last season. When the former Ohio State star returns, the O-line should see instant improvement.

“I think the quickness that he has in there will be really important for some of the plays that we’re trying to run,” Zimmer said of Elflein. “He can reach a guy that’s shaded to the side that he’s trying to get to with his quickness. Obviously he has very, very few mental errors.”

When Elflein, Remmers and injured right tackle Rashod Hill come back, the Vikings will have plenty of options to mix and match. Rookie Brian O’Neill has not allowed a QB pressure in two preseason games, though he matched up against second-teamers in both contests. O’Neill was splitting reps in Monday’s practice with Aviante Collins, who started Saturday’s game at right tackle and then moved to guard.

With Nick Easton out for the year, Tom Compton has played nearly all of the snaps with the first team at left guard while Danny Isidora has played on the right side. Isidora has not allowed a pressure in two games against opponents’ first teams, which gives him a chance to be part of the conversation.

Here are some potential combinations:

Reiff — Compton — Elflein — Remmers — Hill

Reiff — Remmers — Elflein — Isidora — Hill

Reiff — Compton — Elflein — Isidora — Remmers

Reiff — Isidora — Elflein — Remmers — O’Neill

Reiff — Collins — Elflein — Remmers — Hill

Mathematicians could probably tell us exactly how many permutations are possible — it’s a lot. But we should get some hints on Friday when the Vikings play the all-important third preseason game. Last year the third game helped the coaches determine they would move on from Alex Boone and keep Easton at guard.

The most likely combo appears to be simply sticking Compton in for Easton and going forward, but we won’t have any feel for the final product until everyone is healthy.

With the impact of right tackles nearly as much as left tackles these days, it might make sense to move Remmers back to tackle. Last season Remmers allowed 20 pressures in 674 total snaps per Pro Football Focus. During the regular season Hill gave up 19 hurries in 591 snaps. In two playoff games, Hill allowed 14 more hurries.

Remmers may improve the Vikings’ run game by playing at guard, but the biggest impact from an O-line comes with how they pass protect.

“If you look league wide during the Pro Football Focus era, which is 2006 to now, going from a bottom-fourth offensive line in pass protection to top fourth — so we’re not even talking about elite, we’re just saying are you in the lower quartile or the upper quartile — that’s worth a win and a half,” Pro Football Focus analyst Eric Eager said on the Purple Podcast. “So it’s not as big as quarterback play where it’s like four-and-a-half wins…it’s not trivial either.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is part of the equation. He doesn’t avoid the rush as well as Case Keenum did in 2017, so a higher percentage of hurries turn into sacks.

Cousins’ offensive line struggled last year and he lost more sack yards than any other QB in the NFL, which strengthens the argument to start the best pass blocker at right tackle. It’s plausible the Vikings believe that’s Hill.

The possibility still remains that Minnesota’s front office could be on the phones during the final stretch of the preseason. Each year teams trade veterans when they are beaten out for starting jobs. Last year the Vikings picked up corner Tramaine Brock after final cuts.

So we may very well see another new combination in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers that we didn’t see all preseason.

The post Which offensive line combination will the Vikings land on? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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