Still playing the 'What's my line?' game

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2007 - 12:08 AM

Coach Brad Childress says he likes the Vikings' depth on the offensive line. But is its unsettled status a good thing or a bad thing?

The Bears and Packers have been set for some time on the same starting offensive linemen they had a year ago. Meanwhile, at Winter Park, home of the team chasing the Bears and Packers in the NFC North, there apparently is an entire side of the line that remains unsettled a mere 11 days before the regular season begins.

That's what Vikings coach Brad Childress essentially said Tuesday when asked if Artis Hicks and Anthony Herrera were still competing for the starting right guard position.

"It's a competition, at right guard and right tackle," said Childress, making sure to include tackles Ryan Cook and Marcus Johnson in the mix of potential starters. "But competition is not always a bad thing because it brings the best out of those guys."

No unit needs more time to jell than the offensive line. The Packers have used the same five starters in all three preseason games. Injuries have forced the Bears to use two extra starters, but only as a precaution.

Although it's unusual for the Vikings to head into Thursday's preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys without a definitive top five up front, it doesn't necessarily mean a catastrophic start to the season awaits. Childress reflected on some teams he's been on that "have been on the fence" at some of those positions heading into the final preseason game.

"In some instances, that's good," Childress said. "And in some instances, you might call it not so good."

And what about this instance? "I like the fact that we have depth," Childress said.

Right guard appears to be more unsettled than right tackle. While Cook has started all three preseason games at tackle, Hicks and Herrera both have started at guard. Hicks started the first two preseason games, followed immediately by Herrera. They flip-flopped Saturday at Seattle.

"Just because [Herrera] started last week was by virtue of I wanted to see him play with the No. 1 offensive line and the No. 1 group," Childress said. "I think that's only fair."

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, left guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk played all 16 games together last season. Hutchinson missed the preseason opener because of personal reasons. He was replaced by Herrera, who -- like Hicks and Cook -- gives the Vikings valuable versatility.

"I never had any doubts I could play in this league," said Herrera, 27, a former rookie free agent left over from the Mike Tice era. "I started at the University of Tennessee for four years. I didn't get drafted [in 2004] only because of some things I got into in college. I know I can play."

The 6-2, 315-pound Herrera is more athletic, but less experienced. He has played in 12 career games, including six starts at the end of the 2005 season. Hicks, 28, gives the Vikings a bigger body (6-4, 335) with more experience (57 games and 48 starts, including playoffs). He started 14 games last year in his first season with the Vikings.

Childress is keeping the starting right guard for the Cowboys game a secret, saying, "You might just have to wait until game time to see." Apparently, Hicks and Herrera also might have to wait until then.

"They don't tell us anything; they let us know right before the game," Herrera said. "Of course, you'd want to know. But it doesn't matter."

Both players said they've maintained a friendship throughout the summer-long competition.

"It's a business," Hicks said. "He's got a family, just like I do. We're great friends. Even on the field, we coach each other up. Everybody in this game who has been in this game for awhile, you know there are some things you just can't control. We can't control who starts, so why the hell spend sleepless nights worrying about it?"

Childress said he won't name a starter for the Sept. 9 Atlanta game based strictly on who performs the best on Thursday. That probably means he's leaning one way, even though he won't say which way.

"I'm not ready to crown anybody king at that position," Childress said. "But with that said, I'm glad those guys have competed and gotten all the reps that they've gotten because you never know, depth-wise, when a guy is going to have to step up."

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New England 5:30 PM
Seattle
Miami 72 4th Qtr 7:18
Boston 63
LA Lakers 32 2nd Qtr 3:58
New York 38
Arizona 1 3rd Prd
Montreal 2
St. Louis 3 3rd Prd
Washington 2
Nashville 2 2nd Prd
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 2:00 PM
Vancouver
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 2nd Half 0:11
East Carolina 48
Michigan 61 2nd Half 1:21
Michigan State 66
Marist 41 2nd Half
Canisius 35
Fordham 30 2nd Half
Dayton 47
Manhattan 42 2nd Half
Monmouth 24
Quinnipiac 39 2nd Half
Niagara 41
Utah 14 1st Half 9:59
USC 5
Connecticut 2:00 PM
Houston
California 2:00 PM
Washington
North Dakota St 2:00 PM
Western Ill
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
(14) Texas 57 2nd Half 0:53
TCU 60
Cornell 50 2nd Half 1:26
Yale 54
Miami-Florida 66 2nd Half 1:04
Pittsburgh 79
(21) Georgia 62 2nd Half 6:58
(10) Kentucky 63
Wake Forest 61 2nd Half 1:55
(4) Notre Dame 91
Loyola-Chicago 54 2nd Half 2:40
Illinois State 67
(24) Oklahoma 23 2nd Half
West Virginia 32
St Johns 24 2nd Half
Seton Hall 40
Delaware 37 2nd Half
Hofstra 30
Binghamton 18 2nd Half
UMass Lowell 33
Vermont 24 2nd Half
Hartford 26
William & Mary 24 2nd Half
Northeastern 23
Boston College 36 2nd Half
(16) North Carolina 34
Virginia 47 2nd Half
Clemson 32
(2) Connecticut 48 2nd Half
Temple 30
Arkansas 24 2nd Half
Alabama 16
Virginia Tech 37 2nd Half
Georgia Tech 39
Kansas 28 2nd Half
(3) Baylor 32
Canisius 23 2nd Half
Rider 25
Monmouth 17 2nd Half
Fairfield 26
Quinnipiac 35 2nd Half
Saint Peters 29
Butler 29 2nd Half
Creighton 26
Wichita State 27 2nd Half
Drake 29
Evansville 23 2nd Half
Indiana State 25
(18) Miss State 2:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
Villanova 2:00 PM
DePaul
Georgetown 2:00 PM
Marquette
North Texas 2:00 PM
Rice
Auburn 2:00 PM
(12) Texas A&M
(11) Arizona State 2:00 PM
Utah
Missouri State 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Michigan 2:00 PM
(15) Nebraska
Minnesota 2:00 PM
Northwestern
Wisconsin 2:00 PM
Illinois
Bradley 2:05 PM
Southern Ill
Florida 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
(20) Iowa 3:00 PM
(5) Maryland
(1) South Carolina 3:30 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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