With one preseason game in the books, the Vikings are doing some shuffling atop of the depth chart.
When the team returned to practice Sunday, there were two new faces in the starting lineup. Most notably, Andre Smith had been demoted to second team and T.J. Clemmings was practicing as the starting right tackle, according to numerous media outlets.
Andre Smith with the second team today. T.J. Clemmings at RT with the ones.
— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 14, 2016
Obviously this doesn’t mean he’s been demoted from the starting lineup from here on out; it simply means he wasn’t practicing with the starters for one day. But by most accounts, Smith (and the rest of the starting offensive line) had a rough night Friday. It’s not surprising the coaching staff is at least looking at other options at right tackle, especially given his history of underachieving. Then again, Clemmings didn’t exactly set the world on fire upon being forced into action last season, so my bet is the team will do everything in its power to let Smith win the job. He’s by far the most talented option at the position (even if it didn’t look like it in Cincinnati).
In his press conference Sunday, Mike Zimmer didn’t seem overly concerned about the offensive line play on in the first preseason game. He did mention Smith getting beat around the edge by Carlos Dunlap, but also that the Bengals pass rush was rushing “12 yards” downfield, and in that case the job of the offensive line is to guide the defenders past the quarterback and allow Bridgewater to step up in the pocket. In that case, it can look like the offensive linemen are getting beat. Also, after a rough first series, the offensive line did show some improvement throughout the first half.
The other new (old) starter in Sunday’s practice was Terence Newman, who took over at left cornerback for Trae Waynes.
Terence Newman, Edmond Robinson and Marcus Sherels returned to practice. Newman back at LCB over Waynes. #Vikings
— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) August 14, 2016
Newman, of course, was last year’s starter, and was running with the first team through most of training camp before being made inactive for Friday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. Waynes got the start and played reasonably well, especially on balls thrown downfield. Zimmer said he “did some good things,” but also lamented his coverage on shorter routes and indicated he needs to do a better job contesting passes thrown in front of him.
Newman’s mysterious injury seems to have cleared up, though how long he can hold of last year’s eleventh-overall pick remains to be seen. VT’s Adam Warwas and Austin Belisle expect Waynes to supplant Newman by Week 1 of the regular season, and given Newman’s age and the progress Waynes has shown in training camp, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re right. But, as of practice on Sunday, August 14, the starting job still belongs to Terence Newman.