Posted by: Feldman
Each week during the Vikings season, me and my fellow P-B sports scribe Guy N. Limbeck write "Points on the Purple" for our Vikings Playbook page in the Weekend print edition. We'll make this as close to a daily feature as possible here at the blog, with a smaller dose of POTP.
The Vikings took a day off early in training camp, so I decided to take two, as well. I'm old. My body needs time to recover.
Limbeck was over in Mankato today and wrote about some of the injuries (and recoveries) the team has dealt with in the first week of camp. Read that story here.
Today's POTP topic: The offensive line is the biggest strength of the offense.
That's a lot to say, considering No. 28 is in the backfield. But, then again, he goes nowhere without a hole being opened for him. ... Well, that's not entirely true, because we've seen A.P. make his own running room. You get my point, though: We're so excited about Teddy, Cordarrelle, A.P. and Jerick that we forget about the big ugly guys up front who do the heavy lifting.
It would seem the only spot up for grabs on the line is left guard, where incumbent Charlie Johnson could be cut or benched and a majority of Vikings fans wouldn't notice or care. Some would even applaud. Don't rule out the possibility of Johnson not only losing his starting job, but losing his spot on the 53-man roster entirely.
The Vikings drafted Jeff Baca in the sixth round last year and, while he was inactive for 12 games, he played in the final three. Baca (6-3, 302) could battle for the starting job at left guard, but he seems more like one of those guys who is a capable backup at any position along the line. That would leave this year's fifth-round pick out of Stanford, two-time All-American David Yankey. The 6-6, 315-pounder was All-America at left tackle in 2012 before moving to guard and earning All-America honors again last season. He even occasionally lined up at tight end.
Even with the uncertainty about the starter at left guard, the line is still the strongest part of the Vikings' offense.
Left tackle Matt Kalil is expected to bounce back after a subpar sophomore season last year. John Sullivan has developed into one of the most reliable and accountable centers in the league. Brandon Fusco at right guard is one of those guys you'd have expected to see in the era when Mike Tice was coaching the O-line. He was a sixth-round draft pick out of D-2 Slippery Rock in 2011 — the Vikings third pick of that round, by the way — who has blossomed into a solid, if not outstanding pro. Pro Football Focus called Fusco "a legitimate All-Pro candidate." That's lofty praise for such a young guy, and a lot of that is probably playing next to the dependable right tackle Phil Loadholt.
Fusco is a free agent after this season, but don't expect him to hit the market. Vikings' GM Rick Spielman has shown he's willing and ready to lock up the young up-and-comers before other teams can court them. Loadholt was given a new deal before last season. He's a no-nonsense guy who just wants to do his job and win football games; he's the anchor of the Vikings' line and he graded out as the No. 98 player in the NFL last year by PFF.
The Vikings also have some depth along the line this year, with two of Baca/Johnson/Yankey backing up the interior spots, as well as veteran Vlad Ducasse, and guys like Mike Remmers and Kevin Murphy at tackle.
As good as the line has been over the past two seasons, it should be even better this season, not having to protect Christian Ponder for half the season.