Vikings position preview: Offensive line

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
5:45
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Between now and the Minnesota Vikings' first training camp practice July 25, we will break down each position group.

Today, we'll take a look at the offensive line.

Returning players: Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco. Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger, Jeff Baca, Mike Remmers, Kevin Murphy

Gone from last season: J'Marcus Webb

New this season: David Yankey (fifth-round pick from Stanford), Vladimir Ducasse (free agent from New York Jets), Antonio Richardson (undrafted free agent from Tennessee), Matt Hall (undrafted free agent from Belhaven), Pierce Burton (undrafted free agent from Mississippi), Austin Wentworth (undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State), Zac Kerin (undrafted free agent from Toledo)

Position coach: Jeff Davidson (fourth season)

Biggest issue: The Vikings' offensive line has been one of the most reliable units on the team for the past two seasons, but after a season when Kalil and Johnson struggled at times on the left side, the group will have to adapt to an offense with a different focus than the one the Vikings have used for the past several seasons. Run blocking has been the forte of this group, and while the line has been decent in pass protection, offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme, which will likely have the Vikings throwing more often and further downfield than they did under Bill Musgrave, will require linemen to hold their blocks longer and let plays develop. Kalil, in particular, needs to be better after a subpar follow-up to his Pro Bowl rookie season.

Player to watch: The Vikings were thrilled to see Yankey still available in the fifth round, and the rookie could push for a starting job before too long. He's a mean, physical guard who comes from a school that's produced a number of solid offensive linemen in recent years, and while he's been a left guard -- which might be the most vulnerable position on the Vikings' line -- Yankey has played both guard and tackle spots. His versatility and size (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) could make him a versatile backup, at the very least.

Medical report: Kalil had knee surgery after last season, and was limited to individual drills during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp. He's expected to be ready for the start of training camp, however.

Help wanted: The Vikings could look for backup help at tackle, and though they'll be helped by the fact Yankey and Ducasse can line up in a few different spots, it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see them add a veteran backup at some point, like they had in Webb last year.

Quotable: "A lot of the ways that we're doing protections have changed," Davidson said. "There's a lot of nuances that have taken on different responsibilities for everybody within the line. The communication part is very important. That's what we spent an inordinate amount of time on, during the OTAs especially. The run game, there are some changes. I would call them minor tweaks, as compared to what we've done in the pass. Protection-wise is where we've made a substantial change. Some of the adjustments we're making with the protections, that's taken a lot of time."

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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