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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Is it time to be concerned about Pat Elflein?

By Matthew Coller

It isn’t an overstatement to say that if offensive linemen got their due in awards voting, Pat Elflein would have been in consideration for Rookie of the Year in 2017.

The Minnesota Vikings’ starting center made the PFW All-Rookie team and impacted the team significantly as a run/screen blocker and as one of the leaders of a top-10 offense that survived the loss of its starting running back and starting quarterback early in the year.

In the NFC Championship game, Elflein suffered a serious ankle injury. He also underwent surgery to fix a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the Vikings’ matchup with Carolina. All indications were that Elflein would be ready to return by the time training camp rolled around.

But when camp began July 25, the Vikings placed Elflein on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

“He is getting better every day, it shouldn’t be too long,” head coach Mike Zimmer said at the time.

Following the Vikings’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Saturday, Zimmer again hinted that Elflein would be back soon, but as the Vikings prepare to play their third preseason game, their star-in-the-making center still hasn’t participated in practice and remains on the PUP list.

Elflein spoke with the media at the beginning of camp and indicated that he wanted to add strength.

“You kind of have to heal up first,” Elflein said. “You want to lift weights and get stronger than you were the year before, and you want to do all these things to improve on what you’ve already built. But when you get an injury, that kind of [goes to] the backburner. You have to get yourself healthy enough first to progress to that. You’re training a little bit, but it makes you put priority on what you have to take care of first. You don’t want to rush things and try and do things too much.”

With starting left guard/backup center Nick Easton out for the year, 2017 practice squad’er Cornelius Edison has been pushed into the starting role while the team waits for Elflein to return.

We are approaching a time where it would be difficult for Elflein to return by Week 1 — or if he does return, doing so without any preseason reps and very little practice time with new quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Vikings’ quarterback talked Wednesday about working with Elflein while he recovers.

“I think it’s pretty straightforward so we don’t have one-on-one meetings after practice,” Cousins said. “If he has questions, he’ll ask me. The other day he said, “Hey I saw in walk through there was a rep where the safety was topping the nickel and you didn’t change the protection over there. What was the reason for that?” We’ll talk about those kinds of things when they come up. But it’s not every play. I think he has enough reps now in the bank and we’ll get enough reps here in practice to be ready to go.”

Cousins downplayed the effect of switching between centers.

“I’ve played with probably three or four different centers last year in games,” he said. “At any one moment, if a player goes down at center, you have to be ready to play with the next one. It is not ideal but for Pat to just have to just jump in and go, that tends to be more the way NFL football works than to have had years with them. That is more a luxury than the norm.”

Just jumping in and going might not be that easy.

The Vikings open their season September 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, who have one of the NFL’s most dangerous defensive linemen in the NFL in DeForest Buckner. According to Pro Football Focus, the agile 6-foot-7 defensive tackle racked up 19 QB hits to lead all defensive tackles and his 29 total hurries was 12th among interior D-linemen.

Things don’t get any easier in the following weeks as the Vikings go against Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark on the inside of Green Bay’s defensive line. And then in Week 4 they match up against the most dangerous duo of interior D-linemen in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, who led all DTs in hurries last year.

Even if Elflein returns on time to face the 49ers, it still could take weeks before he’s back to 100 percent. His situation could be similar to Latavius Murray, who didn’t have his burst back until midway through the season following offseason ankle surgery prior to 2017.

His status in the coming week-plus will be worth watching as the Vikings come down the final stretch of the preseason and are getting healthier up front with Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill both returning to practice this week. The offensive line will certainly be less of a concern entering this season if it’s at full health.

The post Is it time to be concerned about Pat Elflein? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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