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Minnesota Vikings still disappointed with performance of offensive line

By The Sports Xchange
Minnesota Vikings still disappointed with performance of offensive line
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer coaches against the Seattle Seahawks in the second half of a 2016 NFC Wild Card Playoff game in Minneapolis, Minn. File photo by Craig Lassig/EPA

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Finally, the Minnesota Vikings put what presumably will be their five starting offensive linemen on the field at the same time in live game action.

And ...

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It wasn't nearly good enough.

"It was nice to have everybody out there for the first time," left guard Alex Boone said after Sunday's 32-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. "But we need to get a lot better."

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In what might have been the first and only time the starters will play together before the Sept. 11 season opener, the presumed starting line got 15 snaps before coach Mike Zimmer started subbing players in.

"I thought it was sporadic," Zimmer said.

Two days later, Zimmer still wasn't happy about the offensive line or, really, any of his starters on either side of the ball.

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While the first-team offense once again failed to reach the end zone, the starting defense was shredded en route to a 14-0 halftime deficit.

The offense couldn't move the ball and the defense allowed 31-year-old journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer to complete his first nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns in two possessions.

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Asked Tuesday if he decided how to handle his starters in Thursday's preseason finale against the Dolphins, Zimmer hinted that he might play them.

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Since he became Vikings coach in 2014, Zimmer has sat almost all of his starters in the preseason finale.

"I've made up my mind, but I haven't told the team yet or anything like that," Zimmer said Tuesday. "I haven't told the coaches yet either. After the other night I feel like they should play. But we'll see."

Left tackle Riley Reiff saw his first action of the preseason on Sunday after missing most of camp because of a back injury. Boone returned after missing a game because of a knee injury. Center Nick Easton, who has been locked in a battle with rookie third-round draft pick Pat Elflein, started at center. Right guard Joe Berger and right tackle Mike Remmers started at the spots they've manned all summer.

In their 15 snaps together, these five linemen helped Sam Bradford and the other starters muster only 36 yards for a 2.4-yard average per play. There were three first downs, five plays for losses, no points, another penalty on the line and three sacks, two of which can be blamed on the offensive line.

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And this should have been a feel-good game for the Vikings.

Confidence should have been built considering it was the first home preseason game, and the opponent was a 49ers team that was an NFC-worst 2-14 with an NFL-worst scoring defense (30.0) a year ago.

If there's any good news coming out of the line's performance it's the fact that Reiff played well enough to not get noticed. The same can't be said for Remmers, who continued his summer-long struggle to justify being one of the team's prized free-agent signings along with Reiff.

Granted, the 49ers threw more stunts and blitzes at the Vikings than one normally sees in a preseason game. But the offensive line, particularly the right edge, shouldn't have looked so discombobulated by it.

"That's what's tough about the preseason," Remmers said. "You never know quite what they're going to do because you don't game plan for it. They brought some unique looks, but we still need to be able to pick those up better than we did."

Remmers had a hand in two sacks. He and tight end David Morgan had a miscommunication, allowing end Arik Armstead to get free on a stunt with safety Eric Reid. Remmers was then beaten physically straight up by end Elvis Dumervil.

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The Vikings trailed 14-0 at the half, but a wild second half gave them a victory when No. 3 quarterback Taylor Heinicke dived to extend the ball just inside the right pylon for a two-point conversion with no time on the clock.

It was a fun moment for the team. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to overshadow the first three possessions, when the No. 1 offense looked as constipated as it did during the 3-8 slide to end last season.

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