The loss of Adrian Peterson was supposed to be the biggest news out of Winter Park today, but when Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer took the podium this morning, everything changed.
Zimmer quickly addressed Peterson’s surgery, then announced the team had placed left tackle Matt Kalil on Injured Reserve. According to Andrew Krammer, Kalil’s hip injury has been an issue since the preseason. The injury appears to be season-ending, forcing T.J. Clemmings into the starting role at left tackle.
Last season, Clemmings started every game at right tackle for the Vikings and struggled in his rookie season. There’s plenty of room for improvement when Clemmings makes the switch, as Kalil was Pro Football Focus’s 65th-ranked offensive tackle this season.
Later in the press conference, Zimmer announced a few changes in the backfield. He named Jerick McKinnon the starter for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers and announced the team’s signing of free agent running back Ronnie Hillman.
Hillman, a third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2012, spent four season in Denver. There, he rushed 252 times for 1,842 yards and 12 touchdowns, but was released by the Broncos this offseason. The Scouting Academy had this to say about Hillman, who appears to be a complementary fit in Minnesota’s backfield:
“A committee RB on early downs in a ZBS complimented by a West Coast Style Passing game in Spread sets. Possesses solid balance, straight-line speed and vision to compliment his above average ability as a receiver in the passing game.”
The sudden rash of injuries and roster changes could spell doom for the Vikings, which Zimmer dismissed during his press conference. “I don’t think many people think we can win this game,” he said. “I don’t think many people thought we could win the last game”
He’s right; few expected the Vikings to beat the Packers last week. But they did, and they did so in convincing fashion. It’s okay to worry about the future of the Vikings, but Zimmer’s done more with less before, carrying the Vikings to a 7-9 record in 2014 as a rookie head coach.
Still, Rick Spielman’s roster has been ravaged by injuries, the schedule will only get tougher with every ebb and flow of the season, and others are likely to suffer injuries. The outlook is grim, but Zimmer believes his team can overcome the obstacles ahead.
“This team to me is a team — I’ve said before — they’re resilient, they’re tough, they’re competitive.”