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NFC NORTH ROUNDUP: Vikings Making Changes?

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:

[quote_box_center]“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.”[/quote_box_center]

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:

Green Bay Packers

Image courtesy of Jeopardy
Image courtesy of Jeopardy

Aaron Rodgers appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy last week and won $50,000 for his chosen charity, Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. Look at that smug face.

Detroit Lions

Each year, the NFL Network counts down the Top 100 players in the league (as voted by a random group of NFL players). In 2013, Adrian Peterson topped the list after rushing for 2,097 yards and winning the MVP Award the previous year. This edition, he’ll most likely miss the cut, as the list is determined by the player’s performance in the most recent season — Peterson played in just one game in 2014, rushing for less than 100 yards.

So far, the Lions have three players represented, including DT Haloti Ngata (82), WR Golden Tate (85), and FS Glover Quin (88). Last year, neither Tate nor Quin made the list, and Ngata was ranked much higher, coming in at No. 45. Two of the Lions’ top players last year, Ndamukong Suh and Reggie Bush, appeared on the list but have since departed for new organizations.

Chicago Bears

This week’s Chicago Bears news doesn’t come from on the field, but rather, in the front office. As reported by ESPN, the Bears named Anthony Kelly as director of pro scouting, Joe Douglas as director of college scouting and Christopher Prescott as an area scout.

Kelly is the most notable of the three, as he spent more than five years as the Denver Broncos’ assistant director of pro personnel. Douglas spent 15 years with the Baltimore Ravens, where he worked most recently as a national scout for the organization. Prescott arrives from the New York Jets, where he scouted the southern United States for nearly two years.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. “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”

    I can’t see enough of this play to tell, but is it possible on the above video that Kalil was supposed to pull out, but Johnson failed his block? I wonder if Johnson was more a part of Kalil’s struggles than the other way around as you are suggesting.
    Don’t get me wrong, Kalil struggled mightily, but Charlie Johnson was also horrid. My hopes are a revival of Kalil this season. He better, this might be his last shot.

    1. You’re right on, Charlie Johnson is probably the worst starter in the NFL. Joe Thomas would look like a chump next to him, when Kalil was healthy and Johnson was replaced Kalil looked like a top 10 tackle.
      I’m confident a healthy Kalil with an NFL talent next to him will be just fine next year

  2. . 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: This is a really negative comment towards Matt and you haven’t been listening to Zimmer on the Viking page. When I look at this the Running back was suppose to run outside and Kalli was going towards the safety. He cut right into the pass rush. This is on the RB.