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Familiar with Staff & Scheme, Rauscher Ready to Work with Vikings O-Line

EAGAN, Minn. — Phil Rauscher might "phone a friend" — in the form of the Vikings media guide — if tasked with matching names and faces in the Vikings offensive line room.

The new Vikings assistant line coach at least joked as such when he met Twin Cities media members on Tuesday.

The closeness with personnel will come. In the meantime, Rauscher has plenty of familiarity with co-workers.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak was the head coach of the Broncos when Rauscher began his NFL coaching career in Denver as an offensive assistant. After two seasons in that role, Rauscher was an assistant to former Broncos Head Coach Vance Joseph in 2017 before he was hired in 2018 as Washington's assistant offensive line coach.

Rauscher stepped up to offensive line coach last season once Bill Callahan was promoted to interim head coach. Rauscher worked under Vikings Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison in Denver, along with tight ends coach Brian Pariani and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak.

View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.

He's been excited to rejoin those colleagues for meetings the past couple of weeks to watch cut-ups of game film.

"I think getting a chance to work with Coach Kub' again, who you know, gave me my first opportunity in the NFL, to get back with him has been awesome," Rauscher said. "Klint has been a close friend of mine. Rico (Dennison), Pariani, that whole crew, just to get back in the meeting rooms with them and see how well they all work together has been tremendous. Having familiarity with the system has been a help the past two weeks. Just being away from the system for the past two years and coming back in, it's been great to have some familiarity with it.

"We've really spent the past two weeks in the meeting room, just watching all of the cut-ups and spending time with Rico, just getting a feel for everybody on the roster," Rauscher said. "It's been a crash-course two weeks, as it is when you're a new coach in a new place, trying to figure out everybody. Now, if you line 'em up in a room right now and say, 'Who's who?,' I need a media guide."

Count Rauscher as a fan of the zone-blocking scheme and commitment to the run game that helped Minnesota go from 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2018 to sixth this past season.

"The zone-blocking scheme really opens up a lot of running lanes for the back," Rauscher said. "When I was at Washington, we did a lot of studies of this blocking scheme. The opportunity to work with Dalvin [Cook] as the back really opens up a lot of different things, but [zone-blocking] gives you an opportunity to play fast and be physical, which is something that all lines strive to have, but the opportunity with the zone scheme really opens that up in a lot of ways."

Minnesota's per-game rush average increased by more than 40, going from 93.3 in 2018 to 133.6 last season thanks to the commitment to the run, a healthier Cook and impressive contribution from rookie Alexander Mattison. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah also helped in relief.

"They all bring something different, but they all are explosive," Rauscher said. "It's exciting as a line coach to know that you don't have to block everything perfectly and those guys can still give you an opportunity to get yards, and all of them do that. Coach [Kennedy] Polamalu has done a great job of cycling through those guys at certain times during the year to keep them all fresh. That's exciting as a line coach to know that not everything has to be blocked perfect for a home run opportunity."

As for the offensive line room, Rauscher is looking forward to helping develop a young core of players that he's had an eye on during the draft process the past couple of years.

"I think that's probably the main job of the assistant o-line coach, to help develop the younger players because you can spend extra time with them and work on techniques and fundamentals," Rauscher said. "That's really the role of what the assistant does, besides all of the back-end work that you might not see.

"We do have some great [young players]," he added. "Just working through the draft where I was last year in Washington, we wanted some of those guys that ended up coming here, so I'm really excited for the opportunity to get my hands on them and really get going."

The Vikings are scheduled to start their voluntary offseason workout program on April 20.