The Vikings, who already were trying to replace one of their starting guards from the 2017 season, likely will spend the year without their other returning starter.
Guard Nick Easton will head to injured reserve, coach Mike Zimmer said, after an operation to repair a bulging disc in his neck. Easton, who played 12 games last season before fracturing his right ankle, had returned from that operation and was playing center in training camp with Pat Elflein still on the physically-unable-to-perform list while recovering from ankle surgery.
Easton’s last practice Thursday included two errant snaps — the second of which was the last play of the practice — and Easton hadn’t practiced since, with sources around the team fearing the injury was serious.
Easton was scheduled to receive a second opinion this week from Dr. Jack Kelley in New Haven, Conn. In his absence, the Vikings have used former practice-squad member Cornelius Edison as their starting center. With Easton undergoing surgery, Elflein on the PUP list and Mike Remmers dealing with an ankle sprain, the team could be without three interior linemen in Saturday night’s preseason opener against Denver.
While the Vikings are counting on Remmers to help fill the hole created by the retirement of right guard Joe Berger, they’ll have to sort through their options on the left side of the line.
The Vikings likely will lean on players such as Tom Compton, who roomed with quarterback Kirk Cousins for two seasons in Washington before joining the team this year. The Rosemount native has played left guard in Easton’s absence this week, and Zimmer said the Vikings had their eye on Compton for the past three years.
“When he was at Washington, he played quite a bit; he played in some of their big packages, played some on the offensive line, had multiple positions,” Zimmer said. “We felt like he’d be good.”
Edison, whom the Vikings signed to their practice squad last year, has been working as the first-team center with Easton and Elflein out. He seems likely to start on Saturday night in Denver.
“He’s improved tremendously since he’s come here,” Zimmer said. “He goes against Linval [Joseph] every single day. That’s a pretty good test, usually. It’ll be nice to see him go against someone else this week, but I think Kirk [Cousins] and him have worked together for quite a few days now, so I don’t think that will be much of an issue.”
They will continue to move players around, Zimmer said, and consider their options outside the organization, as well. But the coach made it a point to preach perspective.
“I know everybody’s nervous about our offensive line, but I like the mentality of those guys,” Zimmer said. “I like how they work. I’m around them quite a bit, and they’re going to figure out a way to get it done. So, ‘calm’ is the new [phrase].”