The reconfiguration of the offensive line is probably the most pressing decision for the Vikings coaching staff will face this offseason.
The retirement of Joe Berger, who was extremely versatile on the line, means that where Mike Remmers plays is probably the most important call for coach Mike Zimmer and offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
Yes, it’s an amazing transformation for Remmers, who wasn’t recruited at all coming out of high school — he weighed only 225 pounds — and walked on at Oregon State.
“Now I weigh like 310, so a little bit of a difference,” he said.
It took Remmers a few years to establish himself in the NFL. He signed with the Broncos as an undrafted rookie free agent and then bounced around with four clubs — including a brief stay with the Vikings in 2013 — before sticking with the Carolina Panthers in 2014. He then signed a five-year, $30 million contract to rejoin the Vikings in March 2017.
While dealing with a few nagging injuries last season, Remmers played 10 games at right tackle. But in Week 16 against Chicago, he was moved to right guard for a 23-10 victory. Of his 675 snaps in the regular season, 600 came at tackle.
Remmer has taken snaps during organized team activities (OTAs) at right guard and right tackle, while the team works in Tom Compton, the free-agent guard from Rosemount last with the Bears, and second-year guard Danny Isidora.
What has the line tried to accomplish during OTAs?
“Just the base fundamentals of the offense and the plays and getting the timing down,” Remmers said. “These are all things we’re trying to work on so when we come back for training camp, we don’t have to talk about the snap count or certain plays, we’re going to know it going in. We’re working on technique, our fundamentals and that’s what’s really important in this game, too.”
Remmers said he thinks the line is gelling, even if there’s some movement between positions.
“I think we’re doing well,” he said. “We’ve had to bump guys around in different spots, but things are going great. We’re meshing well together and I feel like each day we go out there and practice, we learn something new and we’re constantly getting better.”
Remmers said it doesn’t matter to him when the offensive line starters are named or who plays where.
“Oh, I don’t know, that’s up to [the coaches],” he said. “You have to be ready to play anything. Injuries happen at any point, so you have to have guys that can play multiple positions. We practice playing different positions because you never know what’s going to happen in a game. We just do everything we can and take advantage of all the snaps we can get.”
Does he have a preference between playing guard or tackle?
“I mean, I like both of them,” Remmers said. “I just want to be playing. That’s my main thing. I want to be playing. I love playing tackle, where I have the most experience. Guard is still new to me, but I’m really enjoying guard, too, whenever I get in there. It has been fun, either one.
“I think they’re just kind of keeping their options open. You’d have to ask [the coaches]. I’m just doing whatever I’m told.”
The Vikings benefited last year from having rookie Pat Elflein step in and take control at center, but Remmers knows that rookie offensive linemen Brian O’Neill, Colby Gossett and Chris Gonzales face a huge learning curve.
“It’s tough coming in your rookie year and sometimes it can be intimidating, but I feel like all three of them have really been doing a solid job,” he said. “You can tell they’re working hard and doing everything they can to learn the offense, the technique, everything as fast as they can.”
Gauging the new guys
Remmers also gave his early impressions of new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“[DeFilippo] is doing great,” he said. “He’s changed the offense up and I think he has a lot of really good ideas, great plays. … The first few days, it was us learning how everything is going to go down, but I think we’re going to be running a really good offense this year and it’s going to be a good year for us.”
When it comes to Cousins, Remmers has already taken to his personality.
“First of all, he is a tremendous person, great person, very nice and a great friend off the field,” Remmers said. “On the field he’s a great leader, a leader in the huddle, and you can tell how much this game means to him. It helps push everyone else to do that much better. He’s just a great quarterback. I’m really looking forward to blocking for him this season.”
And when it comes to his relationship with Sparano, he says it has been one of the best of his career.
“Coach Sparano is a great coach and I love him,” Remmers said. “He does a great job at teaching. I feel like, especially with the young guys, it can be frustrating at times, but he does a great job of coaching them and explaining what he wants. He’s very clear and a great coach, a very knowledgeable coach.”
Super Bowl or bust?
Remmers is one of the few Vikings to have played in a Super Bowl. He started for the Panthers in Super Bowl 50 when they lost to the Broncos 24-10 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
“It was a great opportunity and unfortunately, we didn’t win,” Remmers said. “I’m just trying to get back and get another opportunity to play in another one.”
Did getting so close last year — going 13-3 during the regular season before eventually losing 38-7 to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, missing a chance to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium — motivate him even more?
“It’s another thing where we had an opportunity and didn’t take advantage of it and didn’t get the win,” he said. “But that’s how football goes sometimes. I’m very thankful I have an opportunity this year to go after a Super Bowl.”
When Remmers left Carolina to sign with the Vikings, he said that while leaving the Panthers was tough, he still thinks it was the right decision.
“I’m happy to be somewhere where I’m wanted,” he said. “I loved my time in the Panthers and [it is] a very special part of me, but I absolutely love the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota. The organization and community here is a great place to be.”