Injuries hit the offensive line hard last weekend, forcing the Vikings to search for backup plans to their backup plans while nudging some of the team’s young, unproven linemen further up the depth chart.
Losing right tackle Phil Loadholt to a torn Achilles’ tendon pushed rookie T.J. Clemmings into the starting lineup. And the season-ending pectoral tear suffered by backup tackle Carter Bykowski has bumped second-year lineman David Yankey, who has as many NFL snaps as Clemmings, to tackle.
The Vikings are a couple of injuries away from having to rely on one of their late-round rookies, Austin Shepherd or Tyrus Thompson, to play.
But the man who needs to be protected first and foremost, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, said he believes the youngsters will be ready.
“I think the young guys are going to do a great job for us. T.J., he stepped in last week and he played well. I was able to finish the game without a sack,” he said. “We trust that the coaching staff, the personnel [department] are going to get the right players around here to make this team better.”
While it must be noted that schemes can be vanilla in the preseason, the Vikings have fared well in pass protection through two exhibitions. They have only surrendered two sacks, none of them with Bridgewater in.
There have been just 16 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Starters Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan and Mike Harris all have clean sheets in pass protection in 16 preseason pass-blocking snaps.
It certainly helps that Bridgewater and backup quarterback Shaun Hill have made quick decisions and gotten rid of the ball in a hurry.
Bridgewater says he has kept an eye on young offensive linemen such as Shepherd, Yankey and Thompson whenever he is on the sidelines.
“Those guys have shown flashes. I know one thing: their work ethic is off the charts,” Bridgewater said. “[The veteran starters] set a good example for guys like David Yankey and Tyrus Thompson. So I think those guys have the right guys leading them and they’re going to be huge for this team.”