Vikings’ O-line also part of problem

Posted Sept. 24, 2010 @ 1:05 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Lost in all the blame laying for the Vikings’ offensive troubles has been the sub-par play of the offensive line, especially the tackles. C John Sullivan often is regarded as the line’s weak link, compounded by the fact he missed most of training camp and couldn’t work with QB Brett Favre enough.

But OTs Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt are off to slow starts. Both men keyed the team’s offensive flourish last season, although McKinnie doesn’t dominate as much as he should and Loadholt was a bit hot and cold as a rookie. So far, though the pass blocking has not been up to snuff.

Sure, RB Adrian Peterson has run hard and effectively, but the offensive linemen — namely OLT McKinnie and ORT Loadholt — must elevate their game, too, namely in pass protection. McKinnie for years has played passively at times, not taking advantage of his athleticism and mass, and it has shown up in the first two games. And Loadholt looks more sluggish this season than he did as a rookie, with the strip sack he allowed by Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake in Week Two that led to a TD being the most damaging play so far.

There's no way the Vikings will, or can, make a change at either spot. The backups don't offer better options. And because TE Visanthe Shiancoe (who also was guilty of letting Wake get past him) is best when used as a receiver, he's not suited to be a 50-play blocking tight end. Also gone is last year's best passing-blocking running back, Chester Taylor. Unheralded TE Jim Kleinsasser is an effective blocker, but seeing the tackles do their jobs better will make the offense more effective and open up the playbook possibilities further.

Like the team's troubles at other offensive spots, namely receiver and quarterback, the Vikings likely have one way of solving their issues this season: with the players they currently have starting getting better.