Offensive line gets much-needed upgrade

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2012 - 12:22 AM

First-round choice Matt Kalil takes over at left tackle, and the Vikings believe he'll protect the QB's blind side for years to come.

The Vikings decided a decade of overlooking their offensive line was long enough.

Until they picked Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil fourth overall on Thursday night, the Vikings hadn't used a first-round draft pick on an offensive lineman since they took Bryant McKinnie with the seventh overall pick in 2002.

That's nearly unheard of in today's NFL. In fact, only the Giants (1999), Chargers (2001) and Tennessee Titans (1993 as the Houston Oilers) had gone longer without selecting an offensive lineman in the first round.

Sensing the draft's depth at two other positions of need (receiver and cornerback), the Vikings pounced on a left tackle in part because the great ones tend to go in the top five, a spot the Vikings hope they don't revisit anytime soon.

Kalil's impact on the roster was immediate. He was named the starter as soon as General Manger Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier reached the lectern to address the pick. Charlie Johnson, last year's stopgap signing when it became apparent the team was going to release McKinnie, slides to left guard.

"We got a starting left tackle that will come in and really solidify a key position on our football team for many years to come," Frazier said. "You guys know how important that position is in our league with all the great pass rushers we see week in and week out. Having a guy like Matt Kalil really gives us a chance to have a cornerstone for our organization for years."

Ultimately, the success of the current Vikings depends on second-year quarterback Christian Ponder living up to last year's 11th overall selection. Kalil will play a major role in at least giving Ponder a fighting chance to succeed.

"We saw [Kalil] as a guy who could be a Pro Bowler for a long time," Frazier said. "That was obvious from our standpoint. And with what we're trying to do with our quarterback, we want to do the things necessary to ensure his success. [Left tackle] is a critical position when you're trying to build your football team."

Kalil also can make Johnson a more effective player. Johnson played admirably under difficult circumstances a year ago. But he's built like a left guard, whereas Kalil is the prototypical left tackle with a 6-7, 306-pound frame and the quickest feet that Vikings scouts have seen in years.

Johnson also turns just 28 on Tuesday. That's seven years younger than his predecessor at left guard, Steve Hutchinson, who was released after years of decline.

With Johnson at left guard, John Sullivan at center and Phil Loadholt at right tackle, the Vikings instantly reduced their unsettled offensive line positions to one. Right guard will be up for grabs between free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz, second-year pro Brandon Fusco and possibly Chris DeGeare, a former fifth-round pick who spent last year on the practice squad.

Kalil's impact also will be felt at tight end. The need for a blocking tight end to help protect Ponder's blind side has been eliminated, which is good considering Jim Kleinsasser retired. With fewer blocking duties, pass-catching tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson can spend more time running routes and take advantage of mismatches against linebackers and safeties.

"We feel like Matt's going to be the kind of guy who can block some of the top defensive ends in the league one on one," Kalil said. "We feel like we've addressed a tremendous need there."

Kalil also graded out as an "excellent" run blocker who's athletic and fast enough to pull, which is something offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave favors but couldn't use last year.

"We feel we got the best of both worlds in Matt," Frazier said. "There are going to be some growing pains along the way, but one of the good things about Matt coming to our team is he'll get the chance to face arguably the best defensive end in the National Football League [Jared Allen] every day in practice. That's going to be a great part of his prep, so we think he'll be able to get to that point by opening day. ... For where we are, this was the right pick. We definitely picked the right guy."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 65 3rd Qtr 1:06
Phoenix 66
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 3rd Prd 5:50
Vancouver 4
Chicago 3 3rd Prd 7:56
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
Marquette 59
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close