This comes as great news with training camp upon us.
What may not come as music to one’s ear, however, is the lack of depth on the offensive line—in particular at left tackle.
Lack of depth is a major cause for concern heading into the Vikings’ upcoming season, which is why I'm taking a look at the Minnesota starters the team can ill-afford to see get hurt this season.
Read on to find out who.
I think it’s safe to say that most Vikings fans get nervous when you bring up the name Jasper Brinkley in the same sentence as starting middle linebacker, so imagine the looks on those faces if you mentioned the name Marvin Mitchell.
The good people at Ourlads.com have Mitchell listed as the team’s backup, with rookie Audie Cole as the third-string guy.
The five-year veteran has totaled 119 tackles over his career, most of which came as a backup and on special teams for the New Orleans Saints.
Not really the kind of stuff that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling in your belly.
Brinkley doesn’t have much of a resume either, and he certainly doesn’t come without major question marks, but he is the best current option this team has to quarterback the defense.
Losing him could prove critical to the development of that side of the ball. Then again, nobody knows what the Vikes really have in him yet.
The third year is generally when you expect a significant step forward in the progress of a player.
However, Phil Loadholt took that most-important step in the opposite direction.
He could be taking the roundabout way to reaching maximum potential. Maybe he prefers the journey rather than the destination. Who knows?
One thing we do know is, he’s still a huge upgrade over who he has competing with him for reps.
Offensive tackle Patrick Brown has been waived more times (four) than he has starts (zero) in his three-year career.
Loadholt only missed one game and start in his three-year career, so we know he’s durable.
The Vikes are hoping he keeps that up for at least one more season, while hoping his cross-country journey finally reaches maximum potential in 2012.
John Sullivan has quietly become one of the elite centers in the NFL and was paid accordingly, when he signed a multi-year extension worth $25 million over five years.
He is crucial to the success of the offense because he calls out all the protections for the line.
Getting a grasp on that takes a long time, as does a complete understanding of the offense, as well as what the defense is showing.
That’s just not something that undrafted rookie Quentin Saulsberry has right now.
I shutter with the thought of how Saulsberry would fare against the likes of Ndamukong Suh and B.J. Raji for a full 60 minutes.
There’s no doubt that Jared Allen and Brian Robison are one of the best pass-rushing duos in the entire NFL.
So it’s very safe to say that if either one were to go down for a period of time, the dynamic of the defense would shift considerably.
Ourlads.com has D’Aundre Reed and Jeff Charleston currently backing up Robison and Allen respectively.
Not exactly Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell, circa 2009.
Vikings coaches may wind up giving Everson Griffen a say about this by the time training camp is over, but for now he'll be working as the backup to Chad Greenway.
If the Vikes were to lose any part of their pass rush, it will surely be another long, painful season for the team and their fans.
The Vikings’ prized possession of the 2012 NFL draft has immediately been cemented in as the anchor of this offensive line.
So for reasons much more than just who his backup is (DeMarcus Love), losing Matt Kalil for an extended period of time would be a crushing blow to the team.
The most affected would be Christian Ponder and his development as a quarterback.
Kalil’s presence should allow Ponder more time in the pocket to dissect defenses and read progressions.
If he’s lost for an extended period of time, Ponder can expect to go through much of what he went through last year—further hindering his growth.
Losing a high draft pick to injury also damages team moral because of the potential lift those players can give teams.
These two reasons alone make Kalil the one player Minnesota can ill-afford to lose the most.
Email Brian: Brian.Dezelske@gmail.com