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Talking Tackles

One day removed from the release of left tackle mainstay Bryant McKinnie, players and coaches commented on the move, each in a way that demonstrated that everybody in Mankato is on the same page.

“We made a decision for our organization that we thought was the best thing as we’re trying to bring a world championship to Minnesota,” Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “In order for us to do that, there are certain things I talked to our team about on that first night, that Sunday night, that we got together as a group and I talked to them about the criteria and what I thought was necessary to win in our league, and in order for us to get where we need to go, there are certain things that has to happen.”

“In Bryant’s case, he’s been a terrific player for the Vikings,” Frazier continued.  “I love him as a person. We’ve gotten a great relationship together. But at this point, for all parties involved, I just thought it was the right thing to do, and I’m sure he’s going to catch on with a team and he’s going to do well. He’s a terrific player right now, but for where we are right now and where we’re trying to go to, it just wasn’t the right fit for the direction that we want to go.”

“It’s hard to say. We’ve got 90 guys here,” Frazier said when asked how his players responded to the move.  “But by and large, I think the guys understand what we’re trying to do and the direction we want to go. So, I think they understand what we’re trying to do.”

From all the reports I have seen, I would say it is a safe assumption that Vikings players understood why McKinnie’s release had to happen.

“The message was no one is untouchable,” Antoine Winfield said on Wednesday. “We’re all professionals. We understand that the only thing we had to do was come here in shape. The coaches really had no choice but to do what they did.”

“You can’t be mad at him,” Winfield said. “I’m sure he’s disappointed in himself. That’s kind of embarrassing. But he’s going to have to deal with it.”

“With so much time off, guys do different things,” continued Winfield. “Some guys relax. Some guys like to travel. Some guys like to party. But you have to be disciplined. All you had to do was work out and stay in some kind of shape.”

“That was Bryant’s decision, how he reported to camp,” Kevin Williams said of the situation. “At the end of the day, he has to deal with it. I’m sorry to hear he’s gone, but we have to move on with someone else.”

That someone else could be Charlie Johnson, formerly of the Colts, who is now wearing McKinnie’s old number, 74, on his jersey.

Winfield was asked if having Charlie Johnson on the team would ease the pain of McKinnie’s departure.

“I think it is … I think it is …” Winfield paused.  “Hold on.  Who’s Charlie Johnson?  When will he be here?”

And there lies the potential problem.

In fairness to Winfield, he wasn’t the only player that didn’t know who Johnson is, and really it has been since week two of 2008 since the Vikings even played against Johnson’s Colts.

In that game, with Johnson at guard, Manning was sacked twice and the Colts ran for a grand total of 25 yards.

With Johnson “penciled in” as the starting left tackle we will be able to get our first look at him on Thursday, the first day of training camp in which newly signed players can participate.

He is built more like guard than a left tackle.  Peyton Manning’s smarts and quick release may have made him look better in Indy than he really is.  Will he be able to adequately bulldoze a hole for Adrian Peterson to run through?

Hopefully he produces all positive answers to those questions, but what if he doesn’t?  What other options are there?

Currently Pat Brown and Thomas Welch have been practicing with the firs team in Mankato.  Brown almost got all of our quarterbacks killed in the preseason last year and Welch is a long ways off from being a starting left tackle.

You can scratch those two off the list of competitors for the starting job Johnson didn’t even know he had when he signed with the team.

We mentioned on Wednesday that the Vikings re-signed former second round pick Ryan Cook to a two year contract.  He was a below average right tackle as a starter and has since proven to be a somewhat serviceable utility backup guy along the line.  He may serve as the third string left tackle in 2011, but even that might be a stretch.

Third year right tackle Phil Loadholt played left tackle during his days at Oklahoma.  At the next level, however, Loadholt lacks the quickness and mobility that is so often a must-have trait in a left tackle.  Loadholt reportedly showed up to camp looking to be in great shape and ready to play, but he has yet to even establish himself as an above average right tackle, thus I think it is a stretch to consider him a contender on the left side.  Loadholt does practice at left tackle with the third team, and is the primary left tackle backup, so anything is possible.

The wild card in all of this is sixth round draft pick DeMarcus Love out of Arkansas.  At 6’ 5” and 315 pounds, Love could potentially be a long term solution at left tackle, and is faced with a unique opportunity here to make a name for himself very early in his career.

Once considered an elite prospect, Love had trouble showing solid technique and footwork at times in his senior season, and was labeled as a guard prospect only by the time the Draft rolled around.  So, he has some room for improvement, but if he can improve quickly then maybe we will hear more about him as training camp wears on.

In the meantime, it appears that the Vikings are ready to roll with Charlie Johnson…

Number 74.

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3 Responses to “Talking Tackles”

  1. Ryn Scott says:

    Pat Brown had a great pre season last year. He did not let any sacks up. Cook was the one who let up a few sacks last year getting Farve and the other quarterbacks leveled time after time

  2. Lost Viking says:

    Prediction – Charlie Johnson will be LT.
    DeGeare will hold down RT until Herrera is ready.
    Pass blocking will improve.
    Run blocking won’t.

  3. Lost Viking says:

    Sorry, DeGeare will hold down Right Guard spot until Herrera returns.

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