The Vikings signed former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long this week to bolster an offensive line ravaged by injuries and inconsistent play. Most fans are grounded enough to know that Long — who has had his career derailed by injuries as well — shouldn’t be considered a savior at offensive tackle.
But former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker took it a step further on this week’s Access Vikings podcast. He said that while Long should be able to get up to speed and add depth to the line, he added that the Vikings should hope Long doesn’t even have to play.
“In terms of whether he helps them, hopefully not if you’re a Vikings fan because hopefully at this point T.J. Clemmings and (Jeremiah) Sirles stay healthy and play well the rest of the year,” Tucker said. “I don’t think you want to have to go to Jake Long at this point in his career. … His injury history and body is a significant question and concern for a lot of teams. He’s almost that guy you like better as a backup because you’re worried if he has to play it’s just a matter of time before he gets injured.”
Tucker, who played 42 games with 24 starts in his NFL career before getting into the media side of the game, said he has been impressed by backup tackles Clemmings and Sirles — at least in relation to the two injured starters they have replaced, Matt Kalil and Andre Smith.
“I guess I’m just impressed with how (the offensive line) has played in the face of the injuries and adversity,” Tucker said. “It’s crazy, but I’m not so sure they’re worse off with Clemmings and Sirles than they were with Kalil and Andre Smith. Even though Kalil and Smith were first round picks with big reputations, they really weren’t playing all that well. Clemmings and Sirles have come in and played just fine. … It’s almost best-case scenario in that they’re getting young guys a chance to play and maybe build around those young guys and they really don’t seem to be any worse than the vets that were in there.”
That means the Vikings offensive line has a better chance to improve as the year goes on, Tucker said.
“You absolutely up front can get better as the season goes on — in fact, you should get better,” he said. You start to click and get rhythm. I would expect them to now, especially having young guys as tackles.”