Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is clearly pleased with new O-line coach Tony Sparano and his approach.
Mike Zimmer fancies himself a fixer, and this offseason nothing needed fixing more than the offensive line.
So Zimmer did what a fixer does: he took drastic action.
Out went long-time O-line coach Jeff Davidson and his “too cerebral” approach, in came Tony Sparano and his “nastiness.”
Personnel changes were in the offing as well. The Vikes added attitude at left guard with Alex Boone and experience at right tackle with Andre Smith.
The result so far? Encouraging, according to Zimmer (via ESPN):
"“I saw a big difference yesterday in the way that they practiced, the things they were doing, the techniques we were doing,” Zimmer said. “I thought yesterday they had a really good day. I can’t tell you how they did today yet, but yesterday, they had a really good day.”"
Zimmer’s words are both an endorsement of Sparano (his hire, after all) and a final little jab at former coach Davidson.
After Davidson’s firing, it became clear Zimmer had not been happy with the way his offensive line was coached. Zimmer’s talk was all about being more physical, aggressive, thinking less.
It remains to be seen if the switch in coaches will bear fruit, but there’s reason to be optimistic.
One player in particular who could benefit from a more nasty-minded coach is embattled left tackle Matt Kalil.
Kalil showed a certain aggressiveness bordering on dirtiness in his rookie season, but Davidson and then-coach Leslie Frazier seemed intent on reining him in. And frankly Kalil hasn’t been the same since.
Perhaps getting Kalil back to where he was as a rookie, attacking more instead of playing back on his heels, will help him.
Overall, the offensive line needs to be better at communication, picking up blitzes and the like. And in general, they need to be much better in pass protection.
It’s Tony Sparano’s job to mold the new-look O-line into a viable unit, and at least according to Mike Zimmer, things are going swimmingly so far.