The Vikings got good news for their offensive line this week when Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill returned to practice, but there are still question marks for that position group with center Pat Elflein still not cleared to practice and guard/center Nick Easton out for the season.
If you had to predict the opening day offensive line, it probably would be Riley Reiff at left tackle, Tom Compton at left guard, Elflein at center, Remmers at right guard and Hill at right tackle.
The reason the Vikings’ offensive line is their biggest question mark coming into the season has a lot to do with an overall lack of experience.
While Reiff has 84 career starts and Remmers has 48, Elflein, Compton and Hill have a combined 36.
When you get into the second unit, it’s even more sparse. The second team for the Jaguars game last week featured Aviante Collins at left tackle, Josh Andrews at left guard, Cornelius Edison at center, Danny Isidora at right guard and rookie Brian O’Neill at right tackle.
Isidora is the only player in that group to have started a pro game, which was last season with the Vikings.
And that inexperience plays out in the payroll. According to Spotrac.com, the Vikings have $25 million of their salary cap tied up in 17 offensive linemen, which ranks 27th in the NFL. Compare that to 13 players tying up $38 million on the defensive line, the fifth-highest mark in the league.
That isn’t to say the line can’t perform without prior experience. As a rookie last season Elflein started 14 games.
But it will be the focus of every game as the team tries to win their third NFC North title in four seasons and ultimately make a Super Bowl appearance.
And it will be even more important now that there’s a $98 million man behind them in quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Edison a quick study
Edison played 71 percent of the snaps at center for the Vikings against Jacksonville, the second-highest mark for any offensive player.
He said he picked up the position in 2014 at Portland State, an FCS school.
“I have been playing center since my senior year of college,” Edison said. “I played it one year in college, and mostly in the NFL I have played center.
“My college coach made that switch once my center graduated after my junior year. I was doing whatever it takes to help the team at the time and moved on from there. I was happy, I’m always flexible to play whatever and give my best effort.”
Edison was a quick study at center. He won the FCS Rimington Award as the nation’s best center and played in the FCS National Bowl all-star game.
He has played six games in the pros, all with the Bears, and spent last season on the Vikings practice squad.
“I’ve grown a lot mentally, learning the ins and outs of the NFL playbook and little things and working technique, and technique is the biggest thing and just continue to improve on that,” he said. “It’s all about mature and grow and see different looks and play faster and going against those good guys. I get good work versus them.”
After playing with Chicago and Atlanta, Edison said he feels like this team can be a landing spot for his career.
“I love it here, love the organization, the locker room, the coaching staff,” he said. “I just have to go out there and continue to grind every day.”
He said that Elflein and Easton have helped him a lot. Is he ready to take over a starting spot, if needed?
“We’ll see, I just have to go out every day, give my best effort, work on my consistency, and my technique and we’ll see what happens,” Edison said.
Carroll still close
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will be in town Friday for the Vikings’ third preseason game, and Carroll was on the Vikings staff for one year with Bud Grant in 1985 and four more seasons with Jerry Burns. And speaking of Grant, he was convinced that Carroll was going to be the Vikings head coach, not Dennis Green, in 1992.
Grant was even told by a Vikings official that Carroll was it.
But pressure from the NFL commissioner’s office got Green the job.
Grant was also instrumental in persuading Carroll to draft former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft, even though Seahawks scouts were telling Carroll that Wilson was too short at 5-11.
Grant reminded Carroll that a lot of people thought Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was too short, as well, at 6 feet tall.
Carroll will still call Grant and Vikings staff member Paul Wiggin for advice.
Forsythe on business
Newly acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe has made a great first impression with the Twins, hitting .377 with nine RBI and nine runs scored in 20 games heading into Thursday night’s game with Oakland.
The former Dodger said while he understands the league is a business, the way the trade went down for Brian Dozier was a bit abrupt.
“It was more tough about leaving a team that we had kind of built up a chemistry and a friendship and kind of a family to just like that, with a phone call, I’m gone,” he said.
“That was my first trade in-season; the only thing I didn’t like was how quick I had to get out of there. I didn’t have enough time to really say goodbye like I wanted to.
“On the other end I think this is a good move for me and my family, and these guys have been more than welcoming since I’ve stepped into this clubhouse. It has been great.”
• Gilberto Celestino and Jorge Alcala were probably the two biggest names in the Twins deadline deals, acquired from Houston for Ryan Pressly. So far Celestino, whom MLB.com ranks as the Twins’ 14th-best prospect, is hitting .299 with nine RBI and 10 runs scored at rookie league Elizabethton, and Alcala, who is ranked 11th, is 0-3 with a 6.97 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 ⅓ innings at Class AA Chattanooga. Pressly has a 2.08 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 8 ⅔ innings with Houston.
• The Gophers basketball team will have a slate of 20 Big Ten games this season and also face Utah, Texas A&M, Boston College and Oklahoma State in their nonconference schedule. There’s no doubt Richard Pitino wanted to get better competition in the nonconference, and he has done that.