MANKATO -- After what seems like an eternity of talking about pads, the Vikings will -- finally -- put them on and run into each other starting at 2:45 this afternoon.
Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier today that there will be no tackling in today's practice. Normally, the only tackling comes during the goal-line period. If the Vikings have a goal-line period today, running backs will be hit but not taken to the ground. There will, however, be a lot of intensity on the line of scrimmage.
If you're down here and you don't mind boiling in a 96-degree heat index with no shade, you're
insane likely going to keep an eye on the offensive line. The line play will be full-go live action featuring an offensive line that has new bodies at three of the five positions: Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil, former left tackle and now left guard Charlie Johnson and either Brandon Fusco or Geoff Schwartz at right guard. Fusco is ahead of Schwartz at right guard at this point, but the competition has only begun.
Frazier is looking forward to seeing the new offensive line. Gosh knows, he was tired of watching the old one help the Vikings to their 3-13 free-fall a year ago.
"One of our goals is to be a physical offensive line, a dominant offensive line," Frazier said. "We think moving Charlie to guard really makes us better because we're really expecting big things from Matt, although he is a rookie. We have high hopes for him. So we think that left side of our line has really improved. Having Matt, who's a natural left tackle, versus Charlie at left tackle should make us better.
"And if we can, across the board, come together. One of the keys is the right guard position. If we can identify the right guy at that spot, we think we'll have a much better job. We have to have a much better offensive line."
If the line isn't better, the running game stalls. If the running game stalls, Christian Ponder stalls. And if Christian Ponder stalls, well, the season is over before Halloween.
In other news from today's Frazier news conference:
- Cornerback Nick Taylor will have major shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and has been put on the waived/injured list. Rookie Chris Stroud, a cornerback from Webber International, was signed. Stroud worked out for the Vikings on Saturday and was part of their rookie mini-camp in May.
- Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson, who pulled his hamstring covering fellow rookie Jarius Wright on Friday, won't practice again today and is listed as day-to-day.
- It was assumed that Frazier would give both Fusco and Schwartz at least one preseason start apiece as they compete for the right guard job. Frazier said that's not necessarily the case. He said their starts will be determined by how they practice. Still expect each player to get at least one start in the preaseason.