Thursday, May 28, 2015
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phil loadholt

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Go back and watch any Vikings game from 2014. What did you see? A promising rookie quarterback who struggled early and blossomed late in the year? A defensive end who thrived as a pass rusher and run stopper? A safety who asserted himself as one of the league’s best?

You probably saw all three, but nothing was more apparent than the struggles of the offensive line. Right tackle Phil Loadholt tore his pectoral muscle early in the year, landing on Injured Reserve and missing almost the entire season. Left guard Charlie Johnson, who was released this offseason, struggled in both the run game and in pass protection. However, success is almost impossible when lined up next to a player like 2014 Matt Kalil:

Hopefully, Vikings fans won’t have to watch more of this in the coming season. In a recent interview with the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman, Mike Zimmer explored the idea of shifting the team’s offensive line in 2015 and replacing Johnson with one of three in-house options:

“We are looking at a few guys right now,” he said. “Obviously [veteran] Joe Berger has a chance to fit in with the mix. We have actually been looking at Brandon Fusco moving over to left guard and T.J. Clemmings playing right guard. Also the kid [tackle] Carter Bykowski] that we took off of San Francisco’s practice squad has looked good as well.”

In the same interview, Zimmer shared that Matt Kalil “feels great” and will play with “a chip on his shoulder” in 2015. After the team picked up his fifth-year option, Kalil will need to bounce back from a horrendous 2014 campaign. With two healthy knees, he may have a chance to do just that. On the other side of the line, fourth-round pick Clemmings may see time at right guard; he practiced primarily on the right side, at both guard and tackle, during rookie minicamp.

After the jump, a look at the latest developments around the NFC North:

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Offensive linemen, in my experience, are some of the hardest position to predict when it comes to which round or day they will be drafted. Look no further than Vikings lineman Antonio Richardson for an example of how different projections can be from reality.

Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein could potentially go as high as the third round, especially if Arif Hasan’s consensus Big Board is any indication (he’s #100), but I also see him as a guy that potentially falls well into Day Three.

Most people are plenty familiar with Wisconsin’s dominant run game last season, with Melvin Gordon stealing all of the hype and accolades as the benefiting running back. Gordon is certainly deserving of his status among the best backs in this year’s class, but the offensive line that paved his way every Saturday should not be ignored, including Havenstein.

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The Vikings were hoping some of the dings and dents suffered on Sunday would heal quickly enough to not impact Thursday night’s matchup against Washington.  It is looking like that is just wishful thinking.

The Vikings have already ruled out defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford.  Defensive tackle Fred Evans has also been ruled out while starter LeTroy Guion is listed as doubtful, giving way for Chase Baker to see extensive action.  Xavier Rhodes is listed as probable and will likely start at cornerback across from Josh Robinson, with Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton filling in for Raymond at safety.

On offense, Christian Ponder will have the odds even more stacked against him as he will likely be missing two starters on the offensive line, not to mention tight end Kyle Rudolph.  Phil Loadholt has already been ruled out and J’Marcus Webb will be filling in at right tackle.  Charlie Johnson is listed as doubtful, so Joe Berger is likely to get the start in his place.  Tight end Rhett Ellison is listed as questionable with an ankle injury that has caused him to miss time and backup running back Matt Asiata will miss another game while dealing with the tragic death of his father.

The Indigenous People of the Potomac Region, however, have only one rookie backup running back (Chris Thompson) listed as questionable.  Five others are on their injury report, but they are all listed as probable.

In short, the Vikings are hurting far worse than the Redskins as we forge into the second half of a very, very long 2013 season.

Kyle Rudolph at Cowboys 11/3/13
Photo provided courtesy of Vikings.com

The hits just keep on coming. Kyle Rudolph, who was injured on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Christian Ponder in the third quarter of yesterday’s game against the Cowboys, could be out for a month with a fractured foot.

“I think the guy just fell on his foot when he was tackling him,” Frazier said. “It’s a very significant injury for him and for our team. That gives some other guys a chance to step up. Chase Ford, who played in the ballgame and did a good job for us, he’ll play. John Carlson will get more reps now.”

Though the amount Rudolph has been utilized this season has left something to be desired amongst many Vikings fans hoping for a big year, the loss of one of Ponder’s favorite redzone targets still hurts. As Frazier stated above, this will mean that John Carlson, the Vikings $25 million back-up tight end, will get more playing time.

Phil Loadholt, who suffered a concussion Sunday, did not practice today.

Other Vikings players who did not practice and are now dealing with injuries include: Fred Evans, Jamarca Sanford, Xavier Rhodes, Letroy Guion, Rhett Ellison and Charlie Johnson.

 

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The Vikings offense has received the most attention following the week one loss in Detroit, but the defense certainly didn’t inspire much confidence with their performance, either.  Part of the problem was visible in the middle of the defense, with Detroit’s running game producing quite nicely, and it was noticeable that defensive tackle was out of action.

According to 1500 ESPN, the defensive line rotation may get a boost this week against Chicago, who has a talented duo of running backs themselves.  Williams was able to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Leslie Frazier said he hoped to see him back in the lineup this Sunday.

Also limited in practice were CB Josh Robinson (quad), C John Sullivan (knee), and RT Phil Loadholt (knee).  The Bears are little healthier right now with CB Charles Tillman (knee) being their only player limited in Wednesday’s practice.

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