Starting left guard Alex Boone, whom the Vikings signed in March to be their tone-setter up front, has not been afraid to speak his mind since coming to Minnesota, at one point even profanely but playfully imploring hometown fans to zip it when the Vikings have the ball at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But Boone was the one who held his tongue Tuesday when asked about Vikings coach Mike Zimmer calling his offensive line “soft” and saying they got “whipped” and “overpowered” in Sunday’s 21-10 loss in Philadelphia.
“We’ve got to play better. That’s the bottom line,” Boone said.
But he called you guys “soft.” Do you agree with that assessment?
“I feel like we’ve got to play better. I think when you get your quarterback hit that many times it’s a problem,” he said. “So we’ve got to play better.”
The Eagles sacked quarterback Sam Bradford six times and were credited with 13 quarterback hits. While there was plenty of blame to go around for the poor pass protection, including some to the coaches and Bradford himself, their offensive tackles were victimized on most of the costly breakdowns.
“We’ve just got to play better,” said left tackle Jake Long, who struggled Sunday in his Vikings debut. “We did some really good things … and we just have to build off that and keep moving forward and we’ll be fine.”
Boone acknowledged that constant injuries on the offensive line and the lack of continuity as a result has affected the unit’s chemistry. He said it is up to the linemen to find a way to jell before it is too late.
“I think it’s just playing better with what you have,” the big, tattooed guard said. “I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do. It’s not like you’re not going to go down to Carl’s Jr. and find somebody.”
Long way back
Long got blown by for a pair of strip-sacks in only 13 snaps Sunday as the Vikings rotated him in at tackle with T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles.
That was more action than Long saw during the entire 2015 season, which he spent with Atlanta. But he refused to use rust as an excuse.
“I didn’t play anywhere near well enough,” Long said. “I’ve got to keep getting better, and when I get the opportunity I’ve got to prove it. And I will.”
Long, whose health remains a question mark after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 and again in 2014, said, “My body felt good.”
Picking things up
Even with top cornerback Xavier Rhodes a few weeks removed from the knee injury that sidelined him for the first two games of the season, Trae Waynes continues to get playing time as the Vikings rotate four corners.
Waynes, who has played 60.6 percent of the defensive snaps this season, has held his own with two interceptions and three pass breakups. The 2015 first-round pick said the difference in 2016 is “just being comfortable.”
“First year, jumping in to the NFL and a new system and all that stuff, it was kind of tough,” he said. “But I understand the playbook a lot better, and I’m a lot more comfortable, especially now that I’m playing with the guys.”
Getting another shot
The Vikings brought back Austin Shepherd to their practice squad, along with former Gophers defensive back Cedric Thompson and rookie defensive lineman Sterling Bailey.
Shepherd was a seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2015 and appeared in 14 games as a rookie. The Vikings cut the Alabama product during the preseason and he has since spent time with the Chargers and Steelers. Thompson, a fifth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins last year, has yet to play in an NFL game during stints in Miami and New England.
To make room for those three on the practice squad, the Vikings released quarterback Joel Stave and tight ends Brian Leonhardt and Kyle Carter.