If spring practices are any indication, the Vikings are banking on Rashod Hill’s development in 2018.
Hill, the third-year undrafted tackle out of Southern Miss, says he did his part off the football field this offseason. By cutting out late-night trips to Cub and filling dinners at the downtown Capital Grille, Hill dropped 12 pounds in an effort to be ready for the long haul with the Vikings. He says he’s down to 313 pounds after playing at 325 last season.
“That’s a good thing,” Hill said last month during the Vikings’ minicamp to close the spring.
After Hill took nearly every rep as the starting right tackle during the spring, it’s possible he ends up there again Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Center Pat Elflein’s expected return for training camp this month gives the Vikings flexibility, freeing up Nick Easton to move back to guard and perhaps Mike Remmers back to right tackle. But whether Hill is the starter or the swing tackle (where he began last season), the Vikings want to make sure he’s ready to contribute immediately.
Fatigue and movement were slow creeps, Hill admitted, after he surrendered a playoff-high 14 pressures in two games against the Saints and Eagles, according to Pro Football Focus. Reach blocks in the run game were also issues, for instance against the Saints as the Vikings often ran to the left and away from Hill (and Cameron Jordan) in that memorable playoff win. He wasn’t always able to run and ‘reach’ the opposite side of his defender for a successful run block.
“I lost a little weight from last year, just so I could move better,” Hill said. “I felt last year some fatigue in the fourth quarter. The Philly game and Saints game showed me a lot about fatigue in the fourth quarter. It’s all about being in shape. That’s the way I look at it.”
The film shows as much in that Saints game. Hill said he’s got plenty of work to do regarding technique, but his losses up front were much quicker — and more devastating to the offense — after halftime. Hill surrendered six pressures against the Saints, with his lone sack and single hit derailing separate third downs in the second half.
In the big picture, Hill has been a welcomed surprise for the Vikings after starting nine games last season (the third straight year a backup tackle starting at least half the season). He was just a year removed from being plucked off the Jaguars practice squad.
To improve, Hill credits his wife, Tara, with keeping up on his calorie count each day. He set a 7:30 p.m. cutoff on eating, focusing on smaller meals throughout the day with his ‘big’ meal always being lunch so he could burn off the excess before going to sleep. Rice cakes, Hill said, have become a staple snack. Hill also credited the Vikings’ spacious new facility and dining hall in Eagan.
“It’s really diet, man,” Hill said. “Leaving them late-night snacks alone. Stop going to Cub and getting snacks and stuff like that. Eating healthier. With the new lunchroom, that’s amazing [in Eagan]. They help me out a lot.”
Cutting out a go-to dinner spot has Hill on track to become the Vikings’ go-to right tackle.
“I had to leave Capital Grille alone,” Hill said. “That’s my spot — the steaks and that lobster mac and cheese. That’s tough.”