In the last two games, the Minnesota Vikings have managed to score a total of 17 points. Even more saddening is that six of those points came from a Marcus Sherels punt return, three of them from a Blair Walsh field goal, two of them from extra points and only 6 points from the offense scoring a touchdown during garbage time in the game against the Panthers. They were playing against two struggling defenses (Carolina Panthers and New York Giants). There have been many differences in the two games, including the starting quarterback, but one thing has been a constant so far this year, and that is poor play from the offensive line.
According to the statistics from last year’s Pro Football Focus ratings, rookie left tackle Matt Kalil only gave up seven total sacks and pressures while playing all 16 games of the regular season for the Vikings. Sadly, Kalil gave up seven pressures alone in the game against the Giants. While playing through lower back problems that made him questionable for the game, Kalil gave up seven pressures on quarterback Josh Freeman alone.
But Kalil wasn’t the only one that was struggling. The guard playing next to Kalil, Charlie Johnson, also gave up seven pressures on the day. That’s a total of 14 times that the quarterback was either hit or had to hurry his throws. On several of those plays, Johnson was pancaked. You can’t be an effective blocker when you’re laying on the turf. Johnson must get better for this unit to get back to last year’s form.
Meanwhile, John Sullivan spent the offseason recovering from a microfracture injury. Sullivan has been one of the bright spots on the team. Despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks this season, he hasn’t botched a snap but has struggled picking up the slack of the other offensive linemen. He is one of the anchors of this offensive line.
Brandon Fusco is a confusing lineman. Some games, he plays well. He shows fire and technique while blocking efficiently. Other games, he seems totally inept and unable to hold his position without being pushed backwards. His spotty play was a question mark coming into this season and has remained to be one so far this year. Fusco has one more season on his contract after this year, but may be replaced this offseason.
The final offensive lineman is Phil Loadholt. Loadholt signed a huge extension this offseason to remain as the Vikings right tackle. He has acted as Adrian Peterson’s road grader for the last several years but has become known by fans for his false start penalties instead of his stellar run blocking. Phil isn’t as great in pass protection, but he has still been one of the few strong points for the team this year.
With all the quarterback pressures and lack of ability to make holes for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are really putting themselves in a hole when it comes to executing offensively. Until the offensive line gets their act together, this team will continue to struggle.