The Vikings scanned other rosters to add depth to their offensive line and acquired Jeremiah Sirles from the Chargers on Saturday. They traded away a sixth-round draft pick, but Sirles brings versatility to a thin unit.
“It was a scenario I never really had thought through,” Sirles said. “Someone was excited about me and that’s all I really wanted was an opportunity. I think I have a great opportunity here to come and play.”
Sirles practiced with the Vikings for the first time on Monday. The 2014 undrafted rookie free agent said he played all five spots along the offensive line in training camp with the Chargers and played both tackle positions at Nebraska. Sirles, 24, played in two games last season as a rookie and made his first career start in Week 17 against the Chiefs. He felt the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment he had to make last year.
“You can’t replicate game speed in practice,” Sirles said. “You can try as much as you want, but it’s really hard. So to get out there and see what the live bullets feel like, I feel gave me a leg up going into this preseason.”
The Vikings lacked another option at tackle with season ending injuries to starting right tackle Phil Loadholt and backup Carter Bykowski during the preseason. Mike Harris, who was Sirles’ teammate in San Diego last year during training camp, will start at right guard after serving as the backup swing tackle last year. Rookie T.J. Clemmings replaced Loadholt as the starting right tackle and rookie Tyrus Thompson was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in the preseason finale against the Titans.
“We watched him throughout the preseason, and we felt like we needed some more people there,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “It obviously scoured all kinds of rosters throughout this, and he was a guy we kind of pinpointed.”
The Vikings opted to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster due to an impressive performance from undrafted rookie free agent Taylor Heinicke this summer. The Old Dominion product completed 69.5 percent of his passes during the preseason, racking up 516 passing yards and two touchdowns.
“He got better every week from the first day that he came in here until these preseason games,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s got something to him. He gets rid of the ball quick, he makes good decisions, he can use his legs to get out of trouble, and he’s a smart guy. I think he’s a really good competitor.”
Zimmer did not announce who will start at middle linebacker, but he praised Gerald Hodges for his development this summer. Hodges was confident after the preseason finale that he’d start at middle linebacker in the Vikings’ base 4-3 defense after receiving consecutive starts at the position. Rookie Eric Kendricks has been used at middle linebacker with the starters in the nickel package.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable in there than he was before, as far as his alignments and things like that,” said Zimmer of Hodges. “He’s got some physicality to him, he can run, he’s instinctive, so we’ll just see where that goes.”
The Vikings officially announced former Concordia (St. Paul) defensive lineman Zach Moore signed to the practice squad. Moore participated in practice after getting cut by the Patriots over the weekend. The 2014 sixth-round pick spent last season with New England, earning a Super Bowl ring.
“He’s a big guy that ended up playing some games last year,” Zimmer said. “We’re always looking for big guys. Today was the first day we got a chance to look at him, and I think he’s got some position flexibility that we can use him in. We’ll keep looking.”
Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, center John Sullivan and fullback Zach Line did not participate in practice. Stephen was conditioning on the side as he recovers from a scope procedure on his left knee. Sullivan has been out because of a bad back. Zimmer declined to reveal Line’s injury, opting to wait until the Vikings release their injury report on Thursday.