May 3, 2006
"Where's the Beef? In Minnesota, That's Where!" by Mr. Cheer or Die


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The most essential unit on any football team, from Pop Warner to the pros, is the offensive line. Anyone that has followed football for any length of time realizes that fact. Look at all the great Vikings teams and you find a roster full of All Pro and/or Pro Bowl offensive linemen. The last great line, from 1998, sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl when Randall McDaniel, Todd Steussie, and Jeff Christy represented the Purple.

I bring up those three for another reason. The Vikings currently have three likely Pro Bowlers this coming season in Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, and Bryant McKinnie. In fact, I'd bet the farm on those three being in Hawaii next February.

Last season, the offensive line was suspect at best. The unit ranked 31st in the league in regards to the adjusted sack rate, which gives sacks per pass attempt adjusted for opponent, down, and distance. It was also one of the reasons the Poutin' QB suffered so much early on...eventually missing most of the season to injury. And then leaving altogether. Who wants to stand behind a porous offensive line afterall?

Enter a list of offensive linemen to compete for roster spots, sizable enough to elicit a response of ``Holy Toledo, I’m rich!'', from any restaurant the group decides to frequent this coming season. I mean, just look at this group!

The Offensive Line
(as of 5/3/2006; * signifies starter)
Name
Jersey #
Weight
Height
Center*
Matt Birk
78
308 lbs
6-4
Center
Ryan Cook
62
328 lbs
6-6
Guard
Anthony Herrera
64
315 lbs
6-2
Guard*
Artis Hicks
TBD
335 lbs
6-4
Guard*
Steve Hutchinson
76
313 lbs
6-5
Guard
Jason Whittle
TBD
305 lbs
6-4
Tackle*
Marcus Johnson
72
321 lbs
6-6
Tackle
Dean Bubin
71
305 lbs
6-6
Tackle
Adam Goldberg
73
330 lbs
6-7
Tackle*
Bryant McKinnie
74
343 lbs
6-8
Tackle
Mike Rosenthal
75
315 lbs
6-7
Tackle
Mark Wilson
63
318 lbs
6-6

But while it’s nice to have an offensive line that vaguely resembles a parking lot full of SUV’s, size isn’t the most important aspect of offensive line play. Consistency is. That’s consistency of play and consistency among players.

What is meant by consistency among players is this: a line that has been on the blocking sled and at the training table together for three or four years will almost always outplay an inexperienced one with more talent. Offenses are complicated and take a while to master, and even the bluest of the blue-chip recruits have a difficult time keeping track of all the various calls and shifts.

That’s why I’m both excited and a bit worried about the line heading into the season. The line is huge with an average weight of 324 lbs amongst the five slated starters. And with Birk back at center you just know the line calls will go much smoother this season. But with the addition of guards Artis Hicks and Hutchinson to go with tackles McKinnie and Marcus Johnson one has to worry about consistency among players. It may take this group a few games to really gel.

Consider also the Vikes open on the road at one of the loudest stadiums in the league in Washington. That will be followed by two very tough home games against Carolina and Chicago. I’m hoping the unit gels well before then. We already know the line will be good. “When?? is the question.

Posted by maasx003 at May 3, 2006 1:59 AM