Vikings center Pat Elflein missed exactly 10 months of action while recovering from ankle and shoulder surgeries after Week 14 last season.
Since his return in Week 3 of this season against Buffalo, the second-year center has been part of an offensive line that has had several ups and downs as the Vikings have worked their way to a 6-6-1 record heading into Sunday’s game with the Dolphins.
Elflein, a 2017 second-round pick out of Ohio State, said that at this point in the season the offensive line hasn’t played to its potential.
“We need to be better, we need to be better,” he said. “We need to execute better, tighten up on the details of the job and do a better job.”
In the first nine weeks of the season, quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked once in three games, twice in one game, three times in one game and four times in four games.
In the past four games against the Bears, Packers, Patriots and Seahawks, Cousins has been sacked twice in each game.
Still the Vikings rank 13th in quarterback hits and 19th in sacks allowed.
“I need to do better because it’s not good enough,” Elflein said.
How does he improve?
“Really work some of my technique, sometimes it gets sloppy,” Elflein admitted. “When critical situations really need to focus on technique individually and not letting that get flawed.”
He said that when it comes to their final three games, the Vikings have to play with a sense of urgency and go on a run.
Has there been any big changes with new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski taking over for John DeFilippo?
“I mean we have worked with him for the past couple of years and really like him,” Elflein said. “I think he does a great job and works hard and I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Make or break Miami
The Vikings offensive line may get a chance to reset on Sunday against the Dolphins, who rank 29th in total defense, allowing 401.1 yards per game. They also are 31st in the NFL in sacks with 22.
“They’re a fast defense, they’re a downhill defense, they’re going to try and create disruption in the backfield, and we have to try and disrupt that,” Elflein said. “[I’m] just focusing my time and attention on the linebackers, defensive line and the safeties, that is where my focus is.”
The Dolphins do have Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake on the defensive line, who both have 4 ½ sacks to lead the team.
“They do have a good defensive line,” Elflein said. “I mean it’s going to be a challenge for sure, but I think we’re ready for it.”
End of an era for OSU
On another topic, Elflein was asked about the news that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will retire after the Rose Bowl.
Elflein, an Ohio native, was recruited to Columbus by Meyer in 2011. At the time Elflein was the No. 22 offensive guard prospect in the country.
“That was tough. I am really close with him,” he said. “It’s tough to see him go after he created such a dominant program and culture there. I don’t think that is going to change. I think there’s a concrete foundation there. But we had some special times and moments as a team under Coach Meyer. It’s sad but exciting for the future.”
Will he miss Meyer?
“Oh yeah, everyone is going to miss him, he said. “He impacted a lot of lives. He’s an important guy in Ohio.”
Elflein didn’t play under Meyer’s replacement, Ryan Day, but said he has heard nothing but good things about him.
Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly made the most of his shot when Everson Griffen was away from the team, and the 2016 seventh-round draft pick continues to get a lot of playing time even with Griffen back.
Weatherly recorded two sacks and 12 tackles before Griffen’s return in Week 8 against New Orleans, and since then he has recorded one sack and 14 tackles in six games to go along with four QB hits and four tackles for loss.
“I’m happy to get in there and mix it up and be a part of Zim’s defense,” Weatherly said. “Last year I was a core teamer, on all four phases and rotated sparingly on defense. This year I’m actually rotating in and I’ve played in every game on defense so far.”
Has his role changed?
“[I back up] Griff and D [Danielle Hunter], so whenever either one of them needs a break or needs to come out for a series, I go in for them.”
The Vikings will be playing a Dolphins team that defeated the Patriots 34-33 last week on a 69-yard lateral play for a touchdown with no time on the clock.
“Their quarterback [Ryan Tannehill] is back, firing on all cylinders,” Weatherly said. “Their running back game is pretty good. The one thing they have is a lot of momentum. They came off an emotional win against New England, and they’re going to try and ride that momentum into our game, and it’s up to us to match that momentum. Were playing at home and have a lot to prove.”
The Vikings have faced Tannehill only once, in December 2014 in Mike Zimmer’s first year as head coach. The Dolphins won 37-35 and Tannehill threw for 396 yards and four scores.
“Big guy, solid, he has been playing there for a while, he knows what he wants and how he wants to distribute the ball,” Weatherly said. “He has the confidence of his receivers behind him because they have their No. 1 quarterback back, and so everyone is going to be going out and try to stack wins and keep their momentum going. If we don’t let them have the momentum, then I think we’re going to have a good day on the field.”
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