T.J. Clemmings was drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL draft as a player who would need a couple of years of sitting on the bench before he was ready to start. Unfortunately for him, Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles before the season started, which forced Clemmings into a starting role. Pro Football Focus gave Clemmings a player grade of 36.8 for his play in 2015, ranking him 62nd out of 77 eligible tackles.
The Vikings will be getting Loadholt back, and they also brought in Andre Smith, a former first round pick, and they will both be competing for the right tackle position. So how will Clemmings see the field more in 2016? The answer could be at left tackle.
Matt Kalil has been the starting left tackle since he was drafted fourth overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Being drafted so high, combined with making the Pro Bowl after his rookie season, added up to everyone thinking the Vikings had found a franchise left tackle who would be a stalwart on the line for many years to come. However, Kalil’s play has slipped since his rookie year, whether it’s because of injuries or other factors.
The Vikings picked up Kalil’s fifth year of his rookie contract, but he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he is unable to prove to the coaching staff he has what it takes to be a serviceable left tackle, the Vikings’ brass will need to start looking for a replacement for him.
Because the Vikings have two behemoths battling it out at the right tackle position, they have moved Clemmings to the left side where he will presumably be Kalil’s backup. If Kalil is unable to lock down the left side, there is a chance the Vikings will give Clemmings some playing time instead. It will be interesting to see if Kalil can rise to the challenge, or if he will fold under the pressure.
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