Why Vikings Left Tackle Riley Reiff Trumps Matt Kalil

The Matt Kalil project is done. It’s time for the reign of Riley Reiff.

Matt Kalil is no longer a member of the Minnesota Vikings. He’s a Carolina Panther. It still hasn’t sunk in for me yet. Probably because he missed almost all of last year with a hip injury. Looking back, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft really only had one great season in Minnesota — his first. The past few seasons, a growing number of Vikings fans labeled Kalil as an overpaid, average lineman with an attitude problem.

Kalil simply wasn’t the left tackle the Vikings needed him to be. The team confirmed such when they replaced him this offseason with another 2012 first-round pick, Riley Reiff, who will now anchor the left side of Minnesota’s offensive line.

Let’s put this in perspective. What the Vikings originally wanted out of Kalil is what they hope they’re getting from Reiff — a blue-collar, hard-nosed player that leads by example.

The one major difference between Reiff and Kalil is that no one has ever questioned Reiff’s character. That could be a major reason why the Vikings decided to let Kalil walk and invest so much money in the former Iowa Hawkeye. Reiff signed a five-year contract worth $58.75 million in March.

Reiff, who now protects Bradford’s blind side, has brought a whole new, disciplined mentality to the trenches. Since he joined the Vikings, he’s already made a positive impact on the other offensive lineman. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford praised the work ethic and attitude of the offensive line during team OTAs this spring:

[quote_center]“I love those guys up front. It’s a really fun group to be around. When they come to work every day it’s time to go to work. You can just tell by their attitude. […] It’s nice to know that they’re taking things serious and they want to get things right.”[/quote_center]

Reiff is 28 years old (Kalil is also 28). He’s listed at 6’6″ and 305 pounds. The Parkston, South Dakota native played his college football at Iowa, where he excelled and earned All Big-Ten accolades his junior year. As an offensive lineman that has played football (well) in both the Big Ten conference and NFC North division, Reiff is known for his toughness and high football IQ.

In game film, Reiff’s sound technique and intensity are wildly evident. All are welcome attributes to a Vikings offense line that produced the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season.

To improve up front, Minnesota acquired versatile offensive lineman in free agency. Reiff and fellow offseason-acquisition Mike Remmers have experience playing both tackle positions. In fact, last season, Reiff started 14 games at right tackle for the Lions and Remmers started 12 games at left tackle for the Panthers.

Both players will move back to their natural positions in Minnesota. The position flexibility offered by both Reiff and Remmers could pay dividends if Viking tackles go down as often as they did in 2016.

The winning attitude Reiff has brought to the team is the reason he trumps Kalil. When it comes to constructing an effective offensive line, the Vikings have a solid building block in left tackle Riley Reiff. My 2017 offensive line projected starters:

LT Riley Reiff (#71) – LG, Alex Boone (#75) – C Pat Elflein (#65) – RG Joe Berger (#61) – RT Mike Remmers (#72).

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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  1. This piece was a little too booster-ish for my taste, Sean, and I think you missed an important point, as well. If I am remembering his Pro Football Focus grades correctly, Reiff was fairly consistently solid if unspectacular in his four years as a starting left tackle, and improved from Year 1 to Year 4, while Kalil was good his first year and then consistently lousy his next three. Spielman, Zimmer and Co. have decided to settle for consistent if not outstanding competence over hoping, year after year, for Kalil to finally live up to his rookie season.

  2. cka2nd – I would absolutely agree that the trend of each individual’s PFF grades is yet another reason Reiff trumps Kalil. As always, you make some great points. My point is, beyond the numbers and trends, Reiff’s admirable attitude benefits the team as a whole. It sets the tone, and that’s immeasurable.