Offensive line health the biggest key for the rest of the Vikings’ season

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Vikings’ success in 2017 will depend greatly on how healthy their offensive line will be for the remainder of the season.

As he stood in front of the local Minnesota media on Monday, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was asked about the play of the team’s offensive line during their Week 14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

"“Quite honestly, we didn’t execute in a lot of areas. Some guys played well, some guys didn’t play well. Collectively as a group, we didn’t execute well enough really on either side of the ball.”"

Now, Zimmer did his best to make his response about the play of his entire team, but there is absolutely no way the head coach could have been happy with the Vikings’ offensive line giving up six sacks and seven quarterback hits last Sunday.

But it is not like Minnesota had their top blockers out on the field in Carolina either. Right tackle Mike Remmers (back) and talented rookie center Pat Elflein (shoulder) were both among the Vikings’ inactives announced before last Sunday’s game and left tackle Riley Reiff missed the entire fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

By the final quarter of their Week 14 matchup, Minnesota’s offensive line resembled something similar to the dumpster fire the team dealt with in 2016 (and they played like it too). With their offensive line looking like the $5 movie bin at Walmart, the Vikings gave up three sacks in the fourth quarter, including one on the team’s final offensive drive of the day that pretty much sealed their fate.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Before Week 14, Minnesota’s quarterbacks had only been sacked 14 times in the team’s first 12 games. But with their best blockers unable to play due to injury last Sunday, the Vikings’ makeshift offensive line was no match for the Panthers’ pass rush.

For Minnesota’s upcoming matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the chance of Elflein and Remmers returning seems to be heading in an optimistic direction.

As for Reiff, his ankle is not broken, according to Zimmer, but him playing on Sunday against the Bengals is still very much in the air. Given the talent-level of the Vikings’ next opponent, this may actually be a good opportunity to let their left tackle heal on the sidelines for a week.

Just in case Remmers or Reiff are unable to suit up on Sunday, Minnesota did add some depth to their line on Tuesday when they signed offensive tackle Storm Norton to the team’s practice squad. Norton is a 6-foot-8, 306 pound rookie lineman who has had stints on the practice squads of both the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals this season.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

Signing Norton is likely just a precautionary move for the Vikings, but it may also say something about the current health of their starting offensive tackles.

Minnesota’s offensive line play during their loss to Carolina last Sunday provides more than enough proof that the Vikings will likely struggle to make a run at the NFC’s spot in Super Bowl 52. Playing without one starter may be doable, but any more than that and Minnesota is going to have a tough time running anything resembling the offense that has led them to 10 wins this season.

With possible playoff matchups against the dangerous, pass-rushing defenses of the Panthers, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, or New Orleans Saints, the Vikings having their best blockers out on the field becomes even more vital once the postseason begins in January.

Next: Zimmer is tired of being asked about his starting QB

To do anything in the playoffs, Minnesota needs to do everything they can to make sure their top offensive lineman are as healthy as possible. Even if that means resting them for remainder of the regular season.