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Season Rewind: Plug and Play Defines Offensive Line

No Vikings position group dealt with more injuries than the offensive line in 2016.

Minnesota incorporated eight different starting combinations of five players a season after the Vikings were the only team to start the same five players for every game.

Injuries struck before the season began and continued to make a mark through Week 17.

The unit, however, did manage to tie for the NFL lead by posting five full games without a sack allowed.

T.J. Clemmings appeared in the most games (15) and started 14 of those contests, first filling in for Matt Kalil at left tackle after Kalil was placed on injured reserve in Week 3. The Vikings later moved Clemmings to right tackle for a three-game span after working in-season free agent signee Jake Long into the lineup at left tackle.

Clemmings and Long alternated some snaps at Philadelphia, and Long started at Chicago the following week. On Nov. 13, however, Long suffered a season-ending injury at Washington on the next-to-last play of the game. Jeremiah Sirles stepped in for Long on that play, and the Vikings moved Clemmings back to left tackle for the rest of the season.

Clemmings suffered an injury against Chicago in the finale, which led to the first Vikings action for in-season acquisition Rashod Hill.

All told, the Vikings used five different players at left tackle alone.

Minnesota tried to add to its depth during free agency by signing left guard Alex Boone, who had previously been with the 49ers where offensive line coach Tony Sparano coached tight ends in 2015, and right tackle Andre Smith.

Boone started all 14 games he played. He missed Minnesota's home games against Detroit and Chicago. The Vikings replaced Boone with Sirles against the Lions and with veteran Joe Berger against the Bears.

Smith, who was drafted by Cincinnati when Minnesota Head Coach Mike Zimmer was Bengals defensive coordinator, started the first four games of the season at right tackle before suffering an injury against the New York Giants and landing on injured reserve.

Berger started the first 11 games of the season at center but missed contests against Dallas and at Jacksonville. He returned to the lineup against Indianapolis at right guard, filling in for the first of two games in which Brandon Fusco was sidelined.

Fusco opened 2016 by returning to right guard after playing 2015 at left guard. He started all 14 games he played at the post.

Notable Number

The Vikings ran 1,052 offensive plays in 2016. Multiplying that figure by five for each starting offensive line position results in 5,260 snaps. Minnesota's opening-day starting five played 2,682 of those snaps (51 percent). Of the 2,104 snaps possible by starting tackles, Kalil and Smith combined to play 303, or 14 percent in 2016.

Memorable Moment

This season was a grind, full of twists and turns, but the offensive line persevered through them all and helped the Vikings finish with a positive in a 38-10 win over the Bears. Minnesota rushed for a season-best 124 yards, and the offensive line didn't allow a sack of Sam Bradford. Press box statisticians recorded just one hit of the quarterback by Chicago, and the Vikings protection helped the team tie for the league lead with five games without allowing a sack.

2016 Stats

(snap totals do not include instances when an extra offensive lineman entered the game and reported as eligible)

LT Matt Kalil

2 games played, 2 starts at left tackle, 121 snaps on offense

LG Alex Boone

14 games played, 14 starts at left guard, 873 snaps on offense

C Joe Berger

14 games played, 11 started at center, 2 at right guard, 1 at left guard, 852 snaps on offense (60 at LG, 672 at C, 120 at RG)

RG Brandon Fusco

14 games played, 14 started at right guard, 834 snaps on offense

RT Andre Smith

4 games played, 4 started at right tackle, 182 snaps on offense

T T.J. Clemmings

15 games played, 11 started at left tackle, 3 at right tackle, 882 snaps on offense (672 at LT, 210 at RT)

T Jeremiah Sirles

14 games played, 9 started at right tackle, 1 started at left guard, 769 snaps on offense (652 at RT, 116 at LG, 1 at LT)

T Jake Long

4 games played, 3 started at left tackle, 209 snaps on offense (all at LT)

C Nick Easton

11 games played, 5 started at center, 380 snaps on offense (all at C)

G Zac Kerin

9 games played, 101 snaps on offense (98 at RG, 3 at LG)

T Rashod Hill

1 game played, 49 snaps on offense (all at LT)

G Willie Beavers

2 games played, 8 snaps on offense (all at RT)

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