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Around the Horns: Kalil not worried

9/2/2014

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

Now that the regular season is upon us, we're bringing back Around the Horns, which will kick off each day on this blog as we look at Vikings coverage of note, both from ESPN and other outlets.

Speaking of coverage from other outlets, offensive tackle Matt Kalil got quite a bit of attention during the preseason, especially after Pro Football Focus highlighted his struggles following the Vikings' third preseason game in Kansas City. Coach Mike Zimmer gave an unprompted critique of the analytics website the following Monday, saying fans and writers needed to treat the site's postgame grades with a grain of salt, since no one outside the team knew exactly what a player's responsibilities were on a given play. Zimmer didn't mention Kalil specifically, but when offensive coordinator Norv Turner was asked about Kalil last week, he said "people who are trying to evaluate our tape and not knowing what we're doing, it just doesn't make any sense."

Turner said last week the Vikings intentionally were leaving Kalil one-on-one against speed rushers like Kansas City's Tamba Hali to see how he fared, and for his part, Kalil said on Monday he'd been experimenting with new pass sets, which wouldn't necessarily carry over into the regular season. "If you get beat, you get beat; that one doesn't work, and you work with something else," Kalil said. "That's what the preseason was for me. Even right now, I'm figuring some more stuff out. Come Sunday, I'll know exactly what I need to do."

Kalil's disappointing second season can be blamed partially on a knee injury that hampered his ability to deal with speed rushers, but he'll have plenty of incentive to get back to his Pro Bowl performance from his rookie season. Tyron Smith, Kalil's former teammate at USC who went to the Dallas Cowboys with the ninth pick in the draft the year before the Vikings took Kalil No. 4 overall, got an eight-year, $97 million extension from the Cowboys during the offseason. If Kalil can get himself back on track in Year 3, there's a lucrative payday waiting for him down the road.

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