Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Matt Kalil

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Boone is the newest member on Mike Zimmer's Vikings ship

Vikings guard Alex Boone
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Alex Boone is a throwback offensive lineman. He’ll head-butt his quarterback without a helmet. He’ll threaten to punch a certain Green Bay Packers linebacker in the mouth. But most of all, he’ll bring that in-your-face attitude to the field, where he’s earned a reputation as one of the most physical guards in the NFL.

It’s part of the reason Mike Zimmer wanted Boone — who signed a four-year, $26.8 million contract this offseason — in a Minnesota Vikings uniform next year. “One of the things was his toughness, the physicality,” he said, per Chris Tomasson. ”I like his demeanor and I’m hoping it’s something that rubs off on the rest of our offensive line.”

But more than an attitude, what does Boone add to the unit, and how can he translate his game to improve what was one of Minnesota’s weakest links in 2015? It starts by looking at Boone’s film from last season, his final year with the San Francisco 49ers. A career right guard, he made the full-time transition to the opposite side and started 13 games at the position, finishing the season with a 65.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Though he finished with a 44.9 run blocking grade, Boone excelled in pass protection, earning a 82.1 grade for his work over 13 games. According to PFF, he allowed just three sacks and 17 total pressures all of last year — music to Teddy Bridgewater’s ears.

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Out with the old, in with the new

Vikings' starting offensive line
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Competition is the name of the game for the Minnesota Vikings, who completely revamped the look of their offensive line this offseason. Last year’s unit, which featured rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings and reserve center Joe Berger, was a ramshackle bunch of pieces playing out of position.

Mike Harris, traditionally a tackle, was thrust into the lineup as a right guard. Brandon Fusco, the right guard of old, was forced to move to the left side of the line. And Clemmings, no matter how much of a “steal” he was in the draft, clearly wasn’t ready to take the reigns from an injured Phil Loadholt.

Heading into 2016, a pivotal year for the Vikings, general manager Rick Spielman took measures to prevent another disaster up front. His free agent signings — an re-signings — signal an emphasis on protecting third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and solidifying one of the team’s weakest links from 2015:

  • Re-structuring right tackle Phil Loadholt and retaining left tackle Matt Kalil — consistency and continuity at the tackle position can’t hurt, right?
  • Re-signing right guard Mike Harris, who is expected to compete with Brandon Fusco for starting duties next season
  • Signing free agent left guard Alex Boone, who will step in immediately next to Matt Kalil
  • Bringing in free agent right tackle Andre Smith for a visit — the former Cincinnati Bengal is reportedly deciding between Arizona and Minnesota for his next contract

With all of these changes, moves, and potential signings, Spielman is fostering a competitive environment in Minnesota. Presumed starters today may end up on the bench tomorrow; it’s a guessing game at this point of the offseason. And that’s why I asked the VT team to make their best guess and predict the Vikings’ starting offensive line come Week 1. Who will rise and solidify a spot as one of the top-five?

It’s Week 1 of the 2016 regular season. Who is starting on the offensive line for the Minnesota Vikings?

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Andre Smith leaves Minnesota
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Minnesota Vikings are in the hunt for a possible starting right tackle, pulling out all the stops to lure free agents to Winter Park. A popular tactic is to take potential Vikings to Manny’s Steakhouse, a move the front office used last night when they wined and dined free agent right tackle Andre Smith at the upscale restaurant.

Despite the Prime beef and today’s scheduled tour of US Bank Stadium, Smith left Minnesota without a deal in place. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, his looming decision “is between the Vikings and the Cardinals,” and right now, it’s an “even” race between the up-and-coming NFC teams.

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Vikings need to cut Matt Kalil

Our very own Adam Patrick thinks the Minnesota Vikings need to cut Matt Kalil this offseason. He thinks the left tackle is a disappointment and far too expensive to keep in 2016. With a salary cap hit of $11.096 million next season, I can understand those points.

But I think Kalil deserves another shot to prove he’s the team’s long-term left tackle, and I think the strides he made last season warrant that chance. That’s why I’m throwing a challenge flag and asking Adam to join me for another Vikings Territory #CoinToss! We’ll duke it out, blog-style, and hopefully, I frustrate Adam to the point where he wants to knock my hat off my head.

Here we go! Adam, state your case, convince me that Kalil should be gone!

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Vikings offered Mike Harris a new contract
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Offensive line play is worse than ever in the NFL, making top players a premium commodity in free agency. That’s why the Minnesota Vikings are making an early effort to bring back free agent guard Mike Harris. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings have offered the 27 year-old veteran a two-year, $3.5 million contract to remain with the team through 2017.

Harris was arguably the best offensive lineman in Minnesota last year, finishing the season as Pro Football Focus’s 23rd-ranked guard. He began 2015 as a reserve right tackle, but quickly made the the transition to right guard at the start of training camp. At 6’5″ and 338 pounds, Harris isn’t a natural fit at the position, but his size and strength in the trenches was critical to the success of the run game.

This offseason, he spoke to Tomasson about his desire to return to the Vikings:

“I see myself in Minnesota for the rest of my career,” Harris said. “That’s where I want to be. So hopefully we get the contract ready this weekend. I’m excited. It’s going to be a great season for the Vikings, and I want to be a part of it.”

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