NOTEBOOK: Vikings Have Options on Offensive Line

Posted Jan 12, 2018

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have shuffled the deck at times on the offensive line this season, and more moving and shaking could be on the horizon for Sunday’s playoff game against the Saints.

Minnesota has used seven different starting line combinations, and will likely turn to an eighth in the Divisional round of the postseason.

Riley Reiff will start at left tackle, rookie Pat Elflein will be in at center and Joe Berger will be the starter at right guard.

The other two spots — left guard and right tackle — could come down to a trio of players in Rashod Hill, Mike Remmers and Jeremiah Sirles

Remmers started 10 games at right tackle and one at right guard. Hill made six starts at right tackle and one on the left side. Sirles made three starts at left guard.

If the Vikings go with Hill at right tackle, either Sirles or Remmers could line up at guard in between Reiff and Elflein. The Vikings also have rookie Danny Isidora, who appeared in seven games and made one start at left guard in Week 8.

Remmers didn’t tip his hand when asked where he would line up Sunday.

“It doesn’t matter,” Remmers said. “I’m just going out there and playing football.”

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Thursday that he feels comfortable with Remmers at any spot on the offensive line.

“He’s got enough size where he can anchor down, but he’s also a guy that can move around,” Shurmur said. “He uses his hands well, he works well together with the guard if he’s playing tackle, and certainly the tackle if he’s playing guard.

“He’s very smart, I consider him a fast blinker, so when things move around in there he’s able to sort through it,” Shurmur added. “We knew he had played other positions, but he’s proven to us that he’s a pretty multiple guy.”

The Vikings offensive line will go up against a Saints defense led by defensive end Cam Jordan, the son of former Vikings Legendary tight end Steve Jordan.

Cam Jordan had 13 sacks for New Orleans this season, which tied for fourth in the league along with Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

Remmers has faced Jordan six times in his career, including five times while with Carolina and then once for the Vikings season opener against the Saints.

“He’s a really good player,” Remmers said. “He’s had a great career and a great year.

“Block him. The first thing we’d like to do is block him,” Remmers deadpanned. “He’s just fast and physical, a smart player. He has a little bit of everything.”

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: “He’s a good player, one of the best defensive players in the league, a tough matchup. He’s as good of a defensive end as there is in the league.”

New Orleans finished tied for seventh in the NFL with 42 total sacks.

“It’s going to be a really good challenge for us,” Remmers said. “We’re really looking forward to this game.”

Containing the Return Game

The Vikings punt unit turned in a successful season, with Ryan Quigley becoming the second punter in NFL history to not record a touchback.

Quigley worked with the coverage team to down 29 of his 71 punts inside an opponents’ 20-yard line.

Quigley placed five of eight punts inside the 20 in Week 17 against Chicago, including four inside the 8 and another at the 12 that led to a safety. 

“We’ve taken pride in it,” said Kentrell Brothers, who finished second on the Vikings with 16 special teams tackles this season. “Quigley does a great job of where he sets the ball, and that’s really what sets the foundation for what we do on the punt team. He’s been so good at that. He’s had four kicks inside the 3. That’s unbelievable punting.

Brothers, who finished second on the Vikings with 16 special teams tackles this season, said the Vikings talk about the role that the special teams units can play “all of the time.”

“That’s one of Coach Zim’s points of emphasis, in terms of winning the game,” Brothers said. “One of them is field position. Knowing that we can flip the field on the punt team and help the defense out any way we can, that’s what we try to do.

“On kickoff, we try to pin people deep and get the defense out there because we have one of, if not the — I’m just going to say it, we have the best defense in the league, and if we can get these guys good field position and make the teams go 90 yards, 80 yards, 70 yards, I think that’s a win for us.”

The Saints average starting yard line on possessions was the 22 in Week 1, and Minnesota’s defense allowed one drive of more than 80 yards in the 29-19 victory.

Kai Forbath placed six of his seven kickoffs in the end zone, and four resulted in touchbacks.

Disrupting the connection

The Vikings limited Michael Thomas to 45 yards on five catches and eight targets in Week 1.

Thomas, who led the Saints with 104 catches and 1,245 yards in 2017, caught eight passes for 131 yards on nine targets against the Panthers last week.

Vikings All-Pro and Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes said he has a respect for the connection between Thomas and Brees.

“You can tell him and Drew have a chemistry going,” Rhodes said. “He knows where the ball’s going to be located once it comes out of Drew’s hands, and he adjusts to the ball pretty well. He runs great routes; he’s pretty physical, too.

“I’m looking forward to it being a battle. We’re all looking forward to it being a battle with the running backs, and Drew, and their defense. It’s going to be a good game,” Rhodes added.