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Last Friday night, the Minnesota Vikings did not play offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings in the second preseason game at Seattle. Up to this point, no one knows why. The team hasn’t released any information on the situation. The move could have been a disciplinary measure, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

Bubble players generally play in the preseason; yet Clemmings was a healthy scratch against Seattle. Even with an injury to presumed-starter Alex Boone that kept him out of the game, Clemmings did not dress. Nick Easton took Boone’s place at left guard, where Clemmings had been playing in practice.

ProFootballFocus took the benching as a sign Clemmings has fallen out of favor with the coaches and team. The claim hasn’t been substantiated, but, they might be onto something.

Clemmings, who played defensive end his first three years in college, has been one of the worst offensive linemen ever graded by ProFootballFocus.

A 2015 fourth-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh, Clemmings saw action immediately as a rookie. Phil Loadholt, the team’s right tackle, was out for the year due to a torn Achilles. Clemmings started all 16 games. He did not fare well.

In 2016 Clemmings replaced left tackle Matt Kalil, who suffered a hip injury in Week 2 as was out for the year. Clemmings started the remaining 14 games, and his performance was even worse than in 2015.

This offseason, the Vikings changed his position to guard, hoping to see better results. Unfortunately, this has been the general outcome:

The PFF grades and game tape strongly suggest Clemmings hasn’t grasped the game at the pro level. He hasn’t shown any signs of improvement in two years. Perhaps sitting him at Seattle was a tactic by the coaching staff to light a fire beneath the 25 year-old.

If not, it appears the Vikings may have already made their decision on Clemmings’ future. Sunday’s game against San Francisco may hold that answer.

5 COMMENTS

    • I think it’s safe to say there’s better options already on the roster… plus you never know, maybe a veteran gets released when rosters are trimmed

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  1. I actually think he showed enough improvement in late 2015 to be a strong candidate to start at RT in 2016 (I don’t have any PFF evidence of that, just my memory.) Then they started screwing with him.

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  2. My memory of the 2016 off-season is that Clemmings wasn’t even allowed to compete for the starting job at RT. Smith was brought in to compete with Loadholt while Zimmer, Turner and Sparano had apparently decided to try turning Clemmings into a swing tackle backing up both LT and RT. That was one of the many, many, many mistakes the front office and the coaching staff made with the offensive line in 2016:

    1. Firing Jeff Davidson – Yes, Davidson had failed with Kalil, while Sparano had a rep of rehabilitating former high round OL draft picks, but he had succeeded with John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger and Mike Harris.

    2. Not replacing Matt Kalil – We gave him not one but two seasons to bounce back from his injury-plagued sophomore season of 2013 and he just got worse and worse in 2014 and 2015. We should have finally cut the cord after 2015.

    3. Signing Alex Boone and Andre Smith – Boone had been in a steady decline since 2012 and Smith was as much of a health risk as Loadholt.

    4. Not trusting in the young players on hand and in Davidson’s record of coaching up seemingly marginal talent – Clemmings should have been allowed to compete with Loadholt at RT. Nick Easton – who we had traded for – should have competed against Zac Kerin at LG. Jeremiah Sirles – who we had also traded for – should have been coached up as another option at guard or tackle. And hey, who knows, maybe Austin Shepherd could have built on his decent rookie season with a second year under Davidson.

    5. Cutting John Sullivan – Sullivan would have been the perfect security blanket. With Harris out with his undisclosed illness and Fusco failing in his return to his old position, we could have slid Joe Berger over to RG earlier and plugged Sullivan in at center.

    Going into the 2016 season, our OL roster should have been:

    LT – Player X and (or in place of) Matt Kalil
    LG – Easton and Kerin
    C – Berger and Sullivan
    RG – Fusco and Sirles
    RT – Clemmings and Shepherd

    After Smith’s injury, if Clemmings can’t get the job done with Fusco at his side, wither try Shepherd or bring in Sirles, which we had to do anyway.

    The above scenario would have saved us the millions paid to Kalil, Boone and Smith and the chaos that ultimately ensued. And it would have saved a very raw T.J. Clemmings, who had only one year of offensive line experience in college, from trying to learn a second and now a third position in his young pro career.

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