Shop for Minnesota Vikings gear at Fanatics.com

OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Guard and Center

The Vikings have one of the best guards ever to play the game on the left side and an above-average guard on the right side.  Second year player John Sullivan took over the duties at center, but his size was exposed as a liability and he struggled to be a force in the middle.  How can guard actually be a need this offseason?  Let me explain.

2009 Season

Starting left guard Steve Hutchinson was not himself after suffering a painful shoulder injury early on.  He played through the pain but was not as dominant as normal.

Anthony Herrera has been a very solid option at right guard, but was inconsistent this year when lined up next to John Sullivan instead of Matt Birk.

Outside of these two guys the Vikings have no true guards as backups.  As discussed in yesterday’s preview segment, Artis Hicks has been the primary backup at every position along the offensive line other than center.

John Sullivan struggled in his first year as a starter, but was not a complete disaster.  His primary backup, Jon Cooper, was a surprise addition to the roster after impressing the coaching staff as an undrafted rookie.

Ryan Cook also had the capabilities to fill in at any point along the offensive line, including center which is what he played in college.

Current Roster

Steve Hutchinson is scheduled to have surgery in the next few days on his shoulder, but is by no means considered a question mark for the 2010 season.  Barring another injury or a setback with the surgery, Hutch will be the starter at left guard.

I am a lot more impressed by Anthony Herrera than most Vikings fans, but that does not rule out the possibility of the Vikings looking to upgrade.  While he only gave up one sack this season, Herrera struggled to clear a path for Adrian Peterson and company.

Backup Artis Hicks is an unrestricted free agent this season and Ryan Cook is a restricted free agent, leaving the Vikings mighty shallow at the position should they both leave.  Both John Sullivan and Jon Cooper are set to remain on the roster.

Unrestricted Free Agency

When it comes to landing a starting-caliber free agent, looking at guards might be the Vikings best bet.  Given that they will be restricted on how much they can spend combined with the relatively low salaries that guards demand, they may actually be able to pick one up if Chester Taylor signs a decent sized contract elsewhere.

And solid guards are available at this point.

Rob Sims was Seattle’s only good player on their O-Line this year, so I find it highly unlikely that they let him get away.  If they do, however, then he would be a great young (26 years old) addition to this offensive line.

The slightly older (28), but equally as talented Eugene Amano of the Titans could also be available.  Amano only gave up half a sack this season but is even better as a run blocker.  Making him perhaps even more attractive to the Vikings is his ability to play center as well.

Perhaps the most likely target for the Vikings would be 33 year old Bobbie Williams from the Bengals.  His age would likely put his salary demands more into the range that the Vikings would be able to skate around the rules with.

There is a plethora of backup-quality guards available, which leads me to believe that the Vikings could be willing to let Ryan Cook skedaddle after this season.

The only starting-quality center available in free agency will be the all-time great Kevin Mawae of the Titans.  Considering that he is 39 years old, however, leads me to believe he will not be targeted by the Vikings one bit.

The quality of players available at the guard position leads me to believe the Vikings may target one of these guys.  Also, Brad Childress has gone out of his way on numerous occasions to remind us that Anthony Herrera can play center.

So, if they bring in a quality guard then Herrera could have the opportunity to compete for the center job.  If Herrera turns out to be an upgrade over Sullivan then the Vikings will have upgraded two spots along the offensive line with one signing.

I am a big fan of this plan.

Restricted Free Agency

Again, the Vikings would be required to give up compensation to land one of these guys but there is some really great talent available if they are willing to do so.

Jahri Evans and Logan Mankins are two of the best guards in football.  If they don’t reach a contract extension with their current teams then they will likely be tendered at the highest possible level or perhaps have the franchise/transition tags placed on them.

Even if the Vikings are willing to pay the compensation to get one of these young talents, the likelihood of them getting the chance is very slim.

There are really no restricted centers available that should be considered an upgrade over Sullivan, especially considering that compensation would have to be paid.

Draft Possibilities

Mike Iupati is the consensus pick for best guard in the 2010 draft.  He had a great week of Senior Bowl practice but was abused by Jared Odrick during the actual Senior Bowl itself which means there is an outside chance of him falling to the Vikings in the first round, where he would have to be carefully considered by the Vikings brass.

However, my favorite guard for the Vikings would be more likely to be available in rounds two or three.  Mike Johnson of Alabama.  His athleticism (played some tackle as well) makes him a great fit for the Vikings zone blocking, and he would almost surely be a dominant force for years to come.

For some reason, however, the Vikings like to put gigantic players into the zone blocking scheme which makes no sense to me.  For this reason, I suspect they’ll be carefully looking at a guy like John Jerry of Ole Miss in the middle rounds.  Jerry is 6’ 5” and 335 lbs.

Trade Possibilities

When it comes to trades, the possibilities are endless.  However, I highly doubt that the Vikings trade away or trade for anything having to do with guards or centers… unless it is a positioning trade in the draft.

Projections

Honestly, if the Vikings are going to be at all active in free agency, I think they’ll try and nab one of these really solid guards and slide Herrera into the center position.

Their activity in free agency will be mightily limited, however, and a move like this would be dependant of Chester Taylor signing a lucrative contract elsewhere.

In the end, I’d expect the three starting spots to remain as they were in 2009 with Hutchinson, Herrera, and Sullivan.  I also think Hicks will be back to help play the backup role along with Jon Cooper.  Meanwhile, I think they’ll be content to let go of Ryan Cook and rely on a pick in the range of rounds 2 to 5 be his replacement.


Enjoyed this post?
Subscribe to Vikings Gab via RSS Feed or E-mail and receive daily news updates from us!

Submit to Digg  Stumble This Story  Share on Twitter  Post on Facebook  Post on MySpace  Add to del.icio.us  Bark It Up  Submit to Reddit  Fave on Technorati

20 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Guard and Center”

  1. Fragile Freds says:

    As always a great read!

    Freds is one of those guys who doesn’t think Herrera is a starter, an excellent back up, but not a starter. The guy just doesn’t run block well and clearly the Vike needs better run blocking.

    Freds doesn’t think the Vikes will go first round with a guard or center, wish they would, but they probably won’t. Round two will probably find them selecting a guard or tackle that they can move into place in two years. If they chose a guard in round one, he better be able to start day 1 at guard or it is the wrong pick.

    Love the idea of a free agent (to replace Hererra), love the idea of Cook and Hicks moving to play elsewhere. Let Hererra be the utility player who can back up anywhere.

    We still have no idea how good Sully or Loadholt will be, it’s not unusual for 1st year lineman (Fred knows Sully wasn’t a rookie)to get bitch slapped alot during their first year & show significant improvement in year two. Expect Sully to gain some muscle, Fred thinks Chilly loves Sully.

    Johnny,

    By the way, yes McKinnie is a better tackle than most. The guy made a pro bowl this past year. Notice Fred didn’t say he played in a pro bowl. Take a look at other rosters, facts are facts. He’s a clown, but given his work all year, he’s better than most. He had a couple really bad games but he’s not below average, at least in football performance. Well below avearge in class, pride, work ethic, decision making off the field choices.

    • B. Grant says:

      Freds, I really hope that Chilly does not love Sully. We don’t need any controversy like that on this team. And I think the chances of a first round guard are actually fairly good. It is certainly a roster need.

      Unfortunately, I think this team will have to live with BMac. I just wish he could take his profession and career a little more seriously. His wiring does not appear to allow for that to happen any time soon.

      • Fragile Freds says:

        Buds,

        You’ve been hanging around with Tombs much too much. You’re a sick man.

        Johnny,

        The giant jackass didn’t look pro bowlish to Fred, but I don’t think as you stated he is below average. Better than most, is above average, and yes, he is above average.

      • Tomb... says:

        Freds, go easy on Coach. I mean, if Sully “changed his body around,” you know how much Chilly loves that. He starts pitchin’ a tent immediately. It’s not Bud’s fault he’s noting and stating the obvious.

    • bigjohnny84 says:

      Freds, do you think the giant jackass deserved the probowl nod? I dont. I just look at the beating Favre took this year and Gus took last year. Thats not all Bmacs fault but a good portion is.

  2. Ole says:

    Good Article Adam.

    This question is a day late, but what about Drew Radovich the OT from USC? I thought the Vikings stashed him on the practice squad. You didn’t mention him in your article on offensive tackles the other day.

  3. Red Garrity says:

    Yeah! What about Radovich!!!!!!

  4. Ole says:

    DRed, how have you been old buddy?

  5. krugjr says:

    Aloha, my sun tanned friend! when the Vikes move to LA, I’ll meet you halfway for the playoffs!

    good read, Adam…….we’re limited with restricted FAs, but we could sign any unrestricted FA, is that right?

    gotta feeling the BPA theory will be tested this year for sure, as our “needs” don’t seem to line up with rd 1 & 2 value….OL seems destined for rd 2, while CB and DT seem to be there at #30…..gonna be fun!

    GO VIKES!!!!!

    • Fragile Freds says:

      Correct. Freds wouldn’t be shocked to see them go DT or corner in round one.

      Freds wonders if we will see a draft day tumble of Bradford. Heck with the shoulder injury one never knows with the rumors that start. Assuming the Vikings Doctor, cleared the guy, Fred would say get him!

      Trade up with Jacksonville if Clausen or Bradford is on the board? Hell, if Jacksonville really wants Tebow, they might as well move down to 30, pick up a picks and still take Tebow at 30. No one else will take him until round 3.

      Freds is going into analysis paralysis and loving it!!!!!

      • Tomb... says:

        Can’t have analysis without “anal.”

        Having said that, I actually agree with my ol’ pal Freds. Normally I say HELL NO on ANY 1st round QB pick, but I get the nagging suspicion ol’ Bradford might be worth it. He can carry a clipboard and watch Favre for one more year, then dazzle the purple masses.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Actually Krug, we’re limited on unrestricted free agents. We can only sign as many as we let go… we can only sign one after one of our guys have signed elsewhere… the maximum they can offer is whatever our free agent got in 2010 elsewhere.

      For example, if Chester Taylor is our only unrestricted free agent that signs elsewhere then we can only sign one UFA ourselves. If Chester makes, for example, $1.5 million with his new team in 2010, then the most we can offer a UFA is $1.5 million for 2010.

  6. jeege says:

    This is great analysis! I agree with you on each point.

    And it just struck me a minute ago…

    This was a great season! What an exciting time to be a Viking fan!

  7. Randall G says:

    This is a serpeant that needs slaying, however this serpeant appears to have many heads, truth be told it has only one.

    Brad Childress

    I am not a standard Chilly basher by any strech of the imagination, but this however is a topic with exception.

    Matty Birk, an all pro center and Harvard graduate had this very gripe with Brad Childress. He believed we do no have the personel for a Zone Blocking line, Chilly won the fight but he certainly didn’t win the battle, resulting in Birk leaving for greener pastures.

    I’ll start on the left side.

    Mt McKinney stands 6’8″ with a weight no one seems to know “350ish”, who was scouted as having slow feet resulting in poor pass blocking.

    Prerequisite #1 for Zone Blockers.. Quick feet and agile.

    That is not McKinney.

    Hutch is an all pro gaurd that is well known to be mean as Leroy Brown and enjoys driving his man into the ground until he hears something snap.

    Hutch earned those accolades playing in a “man drive” scheme. Hutch isn’t the type of Guard that likes to play read and react, he’s a go after him guy..

    Hmmmm, his play has been on the decline for the past couple seasons (injury aside).

    Sully gets owned at the line.
    Ditto for Herrera (but gave up the fewest sacks believe it or not)

    Loadholt-See Mt McKinney “big mac”.. Scouted exactly the same..

    All Pro Center Jamie Dukes who was on the best ZB team in the NFL (Broncos) and now an NFL analyst on the NFL network, spoke of why the Vikes have trouble on the line, and I quote “he has those mammoth men dancing around back there on their heels”..

    ______________________________

    Why the hell did we draft Loadholt if Chilly is so hell bent on running a ZB scheme? I pin AP’s less than ideal game performance’s on this, almost entirely.

    Why wouldn’t we just go back to man blocking? Rather than replace the lineman? seems elementary to me.

    ps.. Good read Adam..

    ~skol

    • krugjr says:

      Randall…..Amen to those thoughts……I keep waiting for those local beat writers to try and get Brad to answer that question……instead, they all play softball with BC for whatever reason…

      GO VIKES!!!!!

    • Tomb... says:

      Oh come on Randall, Chilly’s already had the playbook laminated and everything. Do you have any idea how much work it would be to change it now?

  8. Lost Viking says:

    Childress is a run first guy and, I believe, therefore concerned about the run game. If Vike are going to compete for SB he needs more consistency in the run.

    Run game issues began with Hutchison injuries. Vikes also weren’t able to take advantage of pass rush D’s by running AD to gaps as they had in past years. Offense had trouble sustaining running to put teams away.

    Solution for Childress would be Iupati. Iupati’s may only start/play as needed in 2010. Herrera, whose best attribute is 1st punch aggressiveness off the ball, will still be around. Sully and Loadholt will be better in 2010 but Viking must get max production from AD. It’s an OL at #30.

  9. […] mikewobschall wrote a very interesting post today.   Here’s a quick excerpt:The Vikings have one of the best guards ever to play the game on the left side and an above-average guard on the right side. Second year player John Sullivan took over the duties at center, but his size was exposed as a liability and he … […]

Leave a Reply