Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner wouldn’t say how much the starters will play, if at all, in Thursday’s preseason finale at Tennessee. But on Monday head coach Mike Zimmer said those who needed to play would. Judging from how Turner talked about his offensive line after practice Tuesday, it’s a safe bet that many of the team’s starters on the line will get some work.
“We have a lot of work to do in the offensive line and we don’t have a whole lot of time to get it done before the opener,” Turner said.
Getting the offensive line to jell has been difficult because of injuries and youth.
Losing right tackle Phil Loadholt for the year early in the preseason didn’t help. The fact that center John Sullivan has been unable to practice or play for nearly two full weeks hasn’t helped either.
The good news: The left side of the line in tackle Matt Kalil and guard Brandon Fusco has played very well, by all accounts.
But the right side of Mike Harris at guard and rookie T.J. Clemmings at tackle needs more work. Harris is making the transition from tackle to guard, and he hasn’t had a lot of work with Sullivan on his left. On his right is an athletic, but green, rookie.
“They are two young players, in terms of Mike being new at the position and T.J. being a young player,” Turner said. “Jeff [Davidson, offensive line coach] does a great job with them. But there are challenges ahead for us. People start attacking you in terms of your scheme and personnel [in the regular season]. We haven’t seen that yet.”
Here are some other post-practice notes:
Fans finally got to see a long Teddy Bridgewater-to-Mike Wallace completion last week. For some, it was about time. Turner, though, expressed no concern that there haven’t been more big plays to Wallace in the preseason.
“If he was a guy who was a rookie and hadn’t made plays in the games you’d say, ‘We have to see it in games,’ ” Turner said. “He’s not in that category.”
Turner said Wallace has been very good in practice. Indeed, Turner expects a big season from the veteran.
“He’s played a lot better in the last two years than people give him credit for,” said Turner of Wallace, who had 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 TDs the past two seasons for Miami. “If we get him to catch 65 balls and have 10 touchdowns or nine touchdowns, he’ll make a great contribution and help our team.”
Indeed, Turner doesn’t want any of his receivers or tight ends to have numbers that dwarf the rest of his teammates. His goal is to spread the ball around, with one or two players stepping up big each game. “If they all contribute, we’ll have a better offense,” he said.