In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was historically bad. The Vikings ranked dead last in rushing yards per attempt and yards per game. The Vikings also ranked in the bottom ten in sacks allowed (38) and quarterback hits allowed (104). Inconsistent offensive line play was the main reason why the Vikings fell flat after a 5-0 start two years ago.
Last season, however, the offensive line vastly improved. Under second-year line coach Tony Sporano, Minnesota became one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, ranking seventh. The Vikings also improved in pass protection, allowing only 27 sacks in 2017.
Although improved, the offensive line is still the Minnesota Vikings’ weakest position group and should be one of the team’s main focuses this offseason. Here’s a rundown of the Vikings’ offensive line from last season and how they can continue to improve.
The Vikings signed Reiff to a five-year, $58 million contract last March during free agency. Reiff started all but one game in 2017 and was a solid starter at left tackle. The former Detroit Lion helped improve the Vikings’ run and passing game and is the favorite to be the team’s starting left tackle in 2018.
Although an improvement from 2016 starter Matt Kalil, Reiff was ranked as the 59th best tackle by Pro Football Focus.
Due to his massive contract and six years of NFL experience, the Vikings are very unlikely to move on from Reiff until his contract expires in 2022.
Along with Reiff, the Vikings also signed right tackle Mike Remmers to a five-year deal last spring. Reiff was also a solid starter along the offensive line, replacing a struggling T.J. Clemmings. Remmers is a strong run blocker that helped clear running lanes for both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, allowing them both to put up career years.
At times, Remmers struggled against elite pass rushers, allowing the most sacks on the team.
Remmers is the favorite to start at tackle again next season, though there will likely be added competition next summer.
Nick Easton was brought into the Vikings organization in 2015 and has slowly worked himself in as the team’s starting left guard. Easton ended his season early by fracturing his right ankle in a 16-0 win against the Green Bay Packers.
The second-year guard played below average this season, leaving his future in Minnesota in doubt.
Easton will be a restricted free agent in March, meaning that other teams are free to negotiate contracts with him.
Joe Berger has enjoyed a productive 13-year career in the NFL, playing at both the center and guard positions. Prior to the 2017 season, Berger had announced that this season would be his last before retiring.
This season, Berger was one of the bright spots along the Vikings’ offensive line as an extremely effective run blocker.
Berger has been extremely durable throughout his tenure with Minnesota, only missing two starts in the last three years. Berger’s run blocking and experience will be sorely missed by the Minnesota Vikings, and his replacement will most likely be found in either free agency or in April’s draft.
Pat Elflein was also a new face in Minnesota after being selected in the third-round of last year’s draft. The center out of Ohio State started 14 games in 2017 and impressed many with his run and pass-blocking skills.
An ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game ended Elflein’s season, and he is expected to receive surgery this offseason. After a very promising rookie season, Elflein is expected to be the Vikings’ starting center for many years to come.
What to Expect
With the Minnesota Vikings being such a deep team at every other position, it seems very likely that improving the offensive line will be the priority this season (after figuring out their quarterback situation, of course). Finding a replacement for the retiring Joe Berger at right guard will be key, as well as adding depth to the tackle positions.
Although the Vikings’ offensive line improved mightily in 2017, there is still much more work to be done at the guard and tackle positions.
Featured image by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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