When the Vikings open their season in September on Monday Night Football against New Orleans, Minnesota's offensive line could have as many as three new starters from the 2016 season opener.
Pat Elflein likely will be among those who are holdovers from this past season, Vikings left guard recently said the unit will have a different feel to it.
Boone chatted with Tim Yotter of Viking Update about how Minnesota's offensive line has a new mentality and attitude.
Boone thinks the addition of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, the likely starting offensive tackles that were added in free agency, boosts the toughness of the offensive line. He also sees that quality in Nick Easton, who has been starting at center during offseason practices, and Pat Elflein, who was drafted in the third round and could eventually push Easton for his starting spot. While many observers of the Vikings last year focused on the pass protection as needing an upgrade, (Vikings Head Coach Mike) Zimmer emphasized the need to improve the running game. The belief was that running the ball better and more consistently would keep defenses guessing and thereby slow their pass rush.
"Obviously we had a lot of issues last year with our run game and a lot of it was due to injury. We were kind of just doing the best we could, and at the end of the day it really wasn't good enough and we all know that," Boone said. "We didn't make the playoffs. None of us were satisfied with the way that year ended."
The Vikings used eight different starting combinations in 2016, and played 12 total linemen. Minnesota also used five different players at left tackle.
Coller: Handful of Vikings could get first Pro Bowl nod
Stefon Diggs was recently mentioned in an NFL.com article about how the Vikings wide receiver could be primed for his first Pro Bowl in 2017.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com took a deeper look at Minnesota's roster, and came up with a handful of players who could make the trip to Orlando for the annual game.
Coller mentioned Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is entering his third season, as a potential breakout candidate.
He took huge strides forward from Year 1 to Year 2, becoming one of the most effective cover linebackers in the league. The speedy 2015 second-round pick is part of a changing look for linebackers in the NFL who can track down running backs on passing routes out of the backfield. If he continues on the same track, Kendricks could take another step forward in 2017, especially if Mike Zimmer gives him more opportunities to rush the passer.
Kendricks led the Vikings with 126 total tackles (according to coaches' tally), and added 10 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He also returned his lone interception 77 yards for a touchdown.
Coller also believes defensive end Danielle Hunter should be in the Pro Bowl. Hunter had 12.5 sacks in 2016.
Why Danielle Hunter didn't make the Pro Bowl last season after ranking third in the NFL in sacks is a mystery, but the Vikings' top pass rusher could have even more impact on his team's defense in 2017. Because Brian Robison still held down a starting role, Hunter only saw 58% of total snaps. This year, he should play somewhere in the range of 80%. Even if teams scheme to stop Hunter and his sack numbers dip, he will still likely be among the most valuable edge rushers was also much better run stopper than expected, ranking 17th against the run among DEs by (Pro Football Focus) metrics.
One of Coller's five offensive players to possibly make the Pro Bowl was offensive lineman Nick Easton.
*Berger is pretty unlikely to get the recognition he deserves for being an excellent interior offensive lineman, but if there's any year he could get noticed, it's 2017. *
Diggs was also mentioned on Coller's list, as was Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook, quarterback Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Adam Thielen.