Minnesota Vikings: Joe Berger

Meet the free agents: G Joe Berger

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
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Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before, and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2015.

lastname
Berger
Free agent to be: Joe Berger

Position: Guard

Age: 32

Years in the league: 10

What he made last season: $635,000 (cap number -- qualified for minimum salary benefit); $920,000 (cash value)

What he did last season: Berger stepped in at right guard in Week 8, after Vlad Ducasse -- the original replacement for the injured Brandon Fusco -- hurt his knee. And in his first significant action since 2011, Berger did a solid job, especially in games against the Bears, Panthers and Lions. He brought an edge back to the Vikings' run-blocking scheme that went missing when Fusco tore a pectoral muscle, and Berger made it so Ducasse didn't get back in the lineup until left guard Charlie Johnson was injured in December.

His potential market value: Berger won't get significant money, considering he'll turn 33 in May, but his versatility gives him some value. When Sullivan got hurt on the same play as Ducasse in Week 7, Berger finished the game at center before shifting to right guard the next week.

Will he still fit the Vikings? Yes. Berger had floated the idea of retirement at the end of 2014, but said if he returned for another season, he wanted to play with the Vikings. The team will still need a sturdy backup interior lineman, and Berger can serve that role.

What happens: Berger will get another one-year deal to stay with the Vikings, and he'll take his NFL career into an 11th season.
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before, and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2015.

Free agent to be: Vladimir Ducasse

Position: Guard

Age: 27

Years in the league: 5

What he made last season: $635,000 (cap number -- qualified for minimum salary benefit); $795,000 (cash value)

Ducasse
What he did last season: Ducasse got a pair of stints as a starting guard. The first came as Brandon Fusco's replacement at right guard until Ducasse got injured on the same play as center John Sullivan in Buffalo. The second came in Weeks 15 and 16, as left guard Charlie Johnson went down with an injury. Ducasse was rarely better than functional -- and it was worth noting Sullivan's subtle suggestion after the Buffalo game that Joe Berger would be a better fit -- but he was at least able to step in during a trying season for the Vikings' offensive line.

His potential market value: It will be modest at best. Ducasse is a backup guard, which means he's not going to get much more than the kind of deal he received from the Vikings in 2014. His size (6-foot-5, 326 pounds) led the New York Jets to take him in the second round of the 2010 draft, but he hasn't shown himself to be consistent enough to start.

Will he still fit the Vikings? Possibly, but the Vikings want to see David Yankey develop in Year 2, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them add a guard in the draft. Between those players, and possibly a veteran who can play tackle, it wouldn't seem like there would be much room for Ducasse on the roster.

What happens: Ducasse will sign with someone as a reserve, and it seems more likely to be with a new team than the Vikings.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing our position-by-position look at the Minnesota Vikings' roster this morning, with a look at the prospects of a bounceback season for the Vikings' offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE

2015 free agents: Joe Berger, Vlad Ducasse, Mike Harris (restricted)

The good: Let's see: John Sullivan had another solid year at center. Berger stepped in at right guard and was serviceable in the second half of the season. And by the end of the year, Matt Kalil looked like he had (mostly) emerged from his early-season funk.

The bad: Overall, not much went well here. The Vikings lost their vaunted right side of the line -- Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt -- to torn pectoral muscles, and the left side of their line -- Kalil and Charlie Johnson -- just looked lost for parts of the year, with confusion on blitz pickups happening all too often. Things came to a head for Kalil in Week 12, when he was flagged for three penalties against the Packers and got into a brief altercation with a heckler outside TCF Bank Stadium. Johnson's play didn't receive as much scrutiny, but he struggled just as much as Kalil, if not more, in pass protection. Loadholt also wasn't having one of his better years before he got hurt.

The money -- 2015 salary-cap numbers: Loadholt ($6.75 million), Kalil ($6.29 million), Sullivan ($5.75 million), Fusco ($3.49 million), Johnson ($2.5 million), David Yankey ($561,725), Antonio Richardson ($513,333), Austin Wentworth ($510,000), Carter Bykowski ($510,000). In a veteran group with several players well beyond their rookie deals, the Vikings could look to save money by releasing Johnson, who isn't due any guaranteed money in 2015 and will be 31 in May. He is probably the most expendable player in the group, especially if Yankey bulks up enough to challenge for the left guard job in 2015. If they don't draft a guard, the Vikings could always let things play out at the position before making a decision on Johnson. The other looming issue here is Kalil's fifth-year option; the Vikings have to decide on it in May, and they would owe him the transition tag amount for left tackles in 2016, which should be over $10 million. It's only guaranteed for injury in 2015, and if Kalil returns to his Pro Bowl play as a rookie, he could be worth it. But considering he got off to a slow start this year after offseason knee surgery -- and he plays one of the more injury-prone positions in the game -- the option carries some risk.

Draft priority: Medium/high. The Vikings don't head into this year's draft with a gaping hole on the order of what they had at quarterback last year, but on a roster with plenty of smaller areas of concern, this one stands out. The Vikings need better line play in 2015, and while it's probably rash to suggest they should take another left tackle at No. 11, a guard like Iowa's Brandon Scherff could be a sensible pick in the first round.
The Minnesota Vikings took care of their main 2015 free agent priorities last preseason, signing tight end Kyle Rudolph and guard Brandon Fusco to contract extensions in August and September, respectively. Their main 2015 offseason question will revolve around the future of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, but in terms of the team's pending free agents, the Vikings have few major items on their to-do list. Below is a quick look at the Vikings players who will become unrestricted or restricted free agents when the new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET March 10, when unrestricted free agents can sign with any team.

Unrestricted:

Christian Ponder, QB
Jerome Felton, FB (can opt out of 2015 contract)
Joe Berger, OL
Vladimir Ducasse, OG
Corey Wootton, DE
Tom Johnson, DT
Jasper Brinkley, LB
Mistral Raymond, SS (spent 2014 on injured reserve)
Cullen Loeffler, OL

Restricted:

Matt Asiata, RB
Mike Harris, OT

Minnesota Vikings film review: Offense

December, 23, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Had the Minnesota Vikings' defense come up with a stop in the final four minutes of Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, the end result probably would have counted as the biggest pelt on Teddy Bridgewater's wall during his rookie season.

The quarterback did some of his very best work on Sunday against the Dolphins (who were 7-7 entering the game), completing 19 of his 26 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that bounced off Matt Asiata's hands. He connected with nine different receivers, hit six of his seven throws of 10 yards or longer and directed a game-tying 60-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, before Antone Exum's fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff put the Vikings in position to take the lead.

Bridgewater
"I thought Bridgewater played excellent," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Three weeks in a row he’s over 70 percent [completion rate]. The quarterback rating was what, 114? That brings a lot of hope."

Zimmer joked that he was coaching offense on Sunday, instead of presiding over the defense, and given the fact the Vikings put up 35 points against a solid Dolphins defense overseen by Kevin Coyle (Zimmer's protege from Cincinnati), it was a good day for many on that side of the ball. Here are some observations about the Vikings' offense after a film review of Sunday's game:
  • Bridgewater continues to improve late in the season, and one of the things he did best on Sunday was controlling the defense with his eyes. He kept his gaze fixed on the middle of the field as he dropped back in the fourth quarter, releasing the ball to Rhett Ellison as soon as he snapped his head to the right. With the Dolphins' safeties back and the defense paying little attention to Ellison, the scrappy tight end had room to run 40 yards, setting up the game-tying touchdown. And on the sideline throw he floated to Greg Jennings on third-and-13, Bridgewater moved to his right, hitched once and threw a perfect pass to the left sideline once he worked back through his progressions. Until the Vikings have a true "go-up-and-get-it" receiver, Bridgewater will have to be resourceful. He was on Sunday.
  • The Vikings committed to a power running scheme early in the game, pulling Joe Berger and John Sullivan on a number of runs. And while the ground game's production slowed in the second half, Asiata and Joe Banyard both deserve credit for how hard they ran. Asiata gained 25 of his 58 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and Banyard got most of his 23 yards on a run before halftime, when he ran into the back of Berger, bounced away for a 16-yard gain and held onto the ball despite a Dolphins defender's attempt to strip it. The run led the Vikings to reconsider their end-of-the-half strategy, and they went from running out the clock to fashioning a drive that led to an 18-yard Blair Walsh field goal.
  • Right tackle Mike Harris, who's filling in for the injured Phil Loadholt, had a tough assignment with Dolphins left end Cameron Wake, and though he battled, he was no match for the three-time Pro Bowler, whose second sack ended the Vikings' final drive before the Dolphins' blocked punt.
  • Ellison struggled at times in pass protection when the Vikings left him in to block -- he was helping Harris on Randy Starks' sack in the fourth quarter -- but the Vikings' utility knife was all over the field on Sunday, gaining 36 yards after the catch on his big gain, working effectively as a run blocker and chipping defensive ends before releasing on pass routes. On his first catch of the game, he helped left tackle Matt Kalil before leaking out and hauling in a 7-yard pass from Bridgewater.

Minnesota Vikings film review: Offense

December, 2, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' offense was only on the field for 24:12 and 48 plays during a 31-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and it wasn't asked to carry a major load after the Vikings returned two blocked punts for touchdowns in the victory.

But offensive coordinator Norv Turner set up a game plan to get Teddy Bridgewater comfortable early in the game, and the Vikings have to be encouraged with how well it worked.

Fifteen of Bridgewater's 21 throws traveled fewer than 10 yards, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and the rookie completed a season-high 73.3 percent of those throws. The Vikings trusted their receivers to pick up yards after the catch against Carolina's defense, and on several occasions -- mostly notably Charles Johnson's 24-yard gain on a first-quarter screen pass and Greg Jennings' 17-yard, second-quarter touchdown -- that strategy paid off. Vikings receivers gained an average of 4.53 yards after the catch on Sunday, and a group that had dropped four passes in the previous two games didn't have that problem on Sunday.

The Vikings started Bridgewater off with a series of high-percentage plays that gave him a chance to use his mobility -- Turner called two bootlegs on the team's first TD drive, and two of the QB's first five throws were screens to Johnson and Jarius Wright. Bridgewater hit his first five throws of the day -- and by the time he got the ball in a two-minute drill, where he's been at his best, he effectively had a chance to put the game away.

"We just wanted to start fast this week," Bridgewater said. "We knew coming into this game we just wanted to get completions and find some rhythm, establish some rhythm, and we did a great job of that today."

Here are some other observations about the Vikings' offense after a film review of Sunday's game:
  • On Bridgewater's two deep balls -- a throw that barely missed Johnson and his 35-yard connection to Wright four plays later -- he had easier throws available. He had a shallow crossing route for Kyle Rudolph on the throw to Johnson and could have thrown quick screens to Jennings or Matt Asiata on the Wright play. But Bridgewater made two of his better downfield throws of the season, finding Wright after he beat one of the Panthers' few press coverage attempts. The Panthers played off the Vikings' receivers most of the day, which gave Bridgewater room to hit short throws and allow his receivers to run.
  • As a whole, the Vikings' pass protection was better than it had been in recent weeks. Bridgewater was still pressured on eight of his 25 dropbacks, but one of those came when running back Joe Banyard missed a blitz pickup in the second quarter (Banyard didn't play much after allowing a hit on Bridgewater), and tight end Rhett Ellison allowed a hurry. Right tackle Mike Harris allowed a pair of sacks, and Matt Kalil gave up a hurry when he pushed Mario Addison into Bridgewater on a deep dropback, but Kalil made a key block on Johnson's screen, and the Vikings' interior linemen -- Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan and Joe Berger -- did a good job controlling the middle of the line of scrimmage.
  • With Cordarrelle Patterson only playing three snaps, the Vikings created a bigger role for Wright; in addition to the deep pass, Bridgewater found him on a screen pass, handed off to him on a jet sweep, and the Vikings motioned Wright into a tight split to serve as a run blocker on several occasions.

Minnesota Vikings film review: Offense

November, 25, 2014
11/25/14
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It's become a regular part of Teddy Bridgewater's job as a rookie quarterback to throw in the face of pressure; the Minnesota Vikings passer has faced pressure on 30 percent or more of his dropbacks in five of his eight games this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bridgewater
There were easy throws on Sunday that Bridgewater missed in the first half of the Vikings' 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers -- a deep overthrow to an open Charles Johnson on the Vikings' first series, a ball he threw too high for Jarius Wright against zone coverage at the end of the first quarter -- but there were also throws that Bridgewater might have been able to hit with more time to set his feet, and bigger plays to be made with more time to throw.

He spent an average of just 2.36 seconds in the pocket on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and again had to resort to numerous checkdowns, like an off-balance eight-yard throw to Jerick McKinnon after Jayrone Elliott got around Matt Kalil, and a screen that lost two yards later in the same series after Elliott again used a speed rush on the left tackle.

Bridgewater hit his longest TD of the year to Johnson on a play that was impressive for its simplicity -- he froze safety Morgan Burnett and fired to the back of the end zone for a 22-yard score after Johnson beat Tramon Williams -- and the Vikings found room to work on underneath crossing routes to Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings several times. But the day for Bridgewater, as many have been during his rookie season, was a mixed bag.

"There were a ton of plays left on the field," Bridgewater said. "Whenever you're playing a team as good as the Green Bay Packers, you want to make sure you're making all of those plays."

Here are some other observations about the Vikings' offense after a film review:
  • Kalil's day has been well-documented -- he was flagged three times for 35 yards -- but he wasn't the only one allowing pressure on Sunday; Mike Daniels bull-rushed Joe Berger on his way to a sack of Bridgewater, Phil Loadholt allowed pressure that forced Bridgewater to escape the pocket in the first quarter and McKinnon failed to pick up Micah Hyde on a blitz that turned into a third-quarter sack. Bridgewater was blitzed on 38.6 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the Packers mixed up their pressure effectively, with Mike Neal getting to Bridgewater on a stunt that left both Kalil and Charlie Johnson blocking Daniels and a blitz where Clay Matthews batted Bridgewater's pass after coming clean to the backfield.
  • McKinnon was the Vikings' leading rusher with 54 yards, on a day where he had to make several defenders miss in the backfield, but Joe Banyard did a nice job in his first carries, gaining eight yards in the second quarter off a solid down block from Rudolph, on a play that could have gone for much more had Banyard made one man miss. He carried five times for 26 yards, and caught three passes for 19 yards, including a one-handed grab in the second quarter.
  • The Vikings will once again have to reinvent their run-blocking scheme with Loadholt out for the year; they pulled him and John Sullivan effectively on several runs, but with both Loadholt and Brandon Fusco gone, the Vikings can't use their power running game as effectively as they'd like.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson, once again, mostly played in three-receiver sets, as Johnson got much of the work in the base offense. Patterson finished with two catches for 18 yards, but did a nice job of gaining separation from Sam Shields on a 10-yard in-breaking route in the second quarter. Time will tell how big of a role Patterson will play against Carolina, after he sustained knee and ankle injuries on a kickoff return Sunday.
Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

Through nine games of the 2014 season, there's not much about Norv Turner's offense that hasn't been altered somewhat by the Minnesota Vikings' significant personal losses. But even without Adrian Peterson on the field, Turner's effort to involve the Vikings' running backs in the passing game has endured.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Vikings have targeted 69 passes for running backs through nine games, which is the 11th-most in the league and only seven fewer targets than Vikings running backs had all of last season. This year's group of running backs has already caught 46 passes (only nine fewer than last year) and has already surpassed last year's yardage total. In 2013, Vikings running backs caught just 328 yards' worth of passes -- the lowest total in the league. Through nine games in 2014, that total is already at 334.

Turner's offense has always featured running backs as receiving options, but the ability of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon to become reliable receivers in Peterson's absence has been impressive. Asiata had only caught six NFL passes before this season, and McKinnon was transitioning to life as a full-time running back after spending most of his college career as a triple-option quarterback. Asiata and McKinnon, though, have 22 and 20 receptions, respectively, which puts them fourth and fifth on the team. Receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright are tied for second at 26 receptions.

The running backs have been solid options for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as he deals with a menacing pass rush (though the backs have dropped 5.8 percent of their targets, which ranks 12th-highest in the league), and Asiata in particular has been able to provide some explosive plays in the screen game. The return of Peterson could bring even more opportunities for big plays, but even if he's not with the team, the Vikings have found ways to make their running backs a consistent part of the passing game.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who bruised his foot during the Minnesota Vikings' win in Tampa Bay on Sunday, was out of a walking boot on Monday, coach Mike Zimmer said.

"He's fine," Zimmer said. "He had a bruise. He will be fine."

Guard Vlad Ducasse, who practiced in full on Thursday and Friday with a knee injury, was inactive during Sunday's game after being listed as questionable. Zimmer said part of the reason Ducasse was held out of the game was because the Vikings wanted to be careful with his injury, which leaves open the possibility that they'll stick with Joe Berger, who gave up a sack to Gerald McCoy but handled himself well otherwise on Sunday.

"[McCoy might be] the best three-technique [tackle] in the league. We had [Berger] one-on-one a lot," center John Sullivan said. "[Berger] is a battler. He's an excellent football player, and there's a level of comfort with [him between] myself and Phil [Loadholt]. He's been here so long. It felt good."

Defensive end Brian Robison only played 40 of the Vikings' 60 defensive snaps on Sunday, and said he was dealing with some "bruises" by the end of the day, but didn't seem concerned about his long-term status. Corey Wootton saw a season-high 24 snaps, playing largely in relief of Robison.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Minnesota Vikings will have another change in their offensive line this week, and it could be one that lasts for a while.

Despite guard Vlad Ducasse being a full participant in practice Thursday and Friday, the Vikings put him on their inactive list Sunday with a knee injury. That means Joe Berger will start at right guard, after stepping in for John Sullivan at center last week. If Ducasse is healthy, the move might have more to do with performance than health.

Berger has been with the Vikings since 2011 and talked Friday about the benefit of the continuity he's enjoyed with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and veterans like Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. Especially if Sullivan stays healthy enough that the Vikings don't need to use Berger at center, they could stick with Berger at right guard with Brandon Fusco out.

Linebacker Gerald Hodges is also inactive for the Vikings with a hamstring injury; Hodges was listed as doubtful Friday and will miss his second straight game. Cornerback Josh Robinson, however, is active after missing time with a sprained ankle late in the week. Robinson said he'd be able to play, and he was apparently correct.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives Sunday:

Josh Robinson (ankle) misses practice

October, 24, 2014
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings could be without cornerback Josh Robinson on Sunday, after Robinson injured his ankle during individual drills on Thursday.

Robinson did not practice on Friday, indicating his availability for Sunday is in some doubt. The cornerback said after practice, however, that he's feeling better after rolling his ankle on Thursday, and he sounded optimistic he could still play Sunday.

Robinson
"We were just going through the motions and not really trying to go full speed or anything like that [when the injury occurred]," Robinson said. "That should help as far as recovery time."

Asked about Robinson's availability for Sunday, coach Mike Zimmer said, "I don't know. We'll find out a little bit more tomorrow."

If Robinson were unable to play, rookie Jabari Price would likely be next in line.

With John Sullivan ready to return from a concussion this week, the Vikings won't need Joe Berger to start at center on Sunday, but it seems possible Berger could find his way into the lineup at right guard instead. He saw some first-team snaps at the spot this week, while Vlad Ducasse worked his way back from a knee injury. Berger and Zimmer were coy about the plan for the offensive line, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Berger in the lineup on Sunday.

"I may or may not know that," Berger said when asked whether he has been told if he'll start on Sunday. "If you guys don't know that, I'm going to let the coach tell you."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Teddy Bridgewater was 14, the last of four kids still at home, when his mother Rose Murphy told him she had breast cancer.

Jerome Felton was going through training camp with the Minnesota Vikings last summer when he got a text message from his older sister, Maike Bachmann, saying she had something important to tell him.

[+] EnlargeDwight Lowery
Ann Heisenfelt/AP PhotoTeddy Bridgewater is one of several Vikings whose life has been affected by loved ones suffering from breast cancer.
Antone Exum's mother, Barbara, was diagnosed a week after Exum's grandmother had died from cancer. Not wanting to worry her two children with the news, she went through treatments in silence, finally telling her kids two years later that she'd beaten the disease.

Those three players, along with defensive end Everson Griffen, appeared at the team's 4th annual Breast Cancer Awareness luncheon with stories to tell about how the disease had affected them personally. Griffen, who got married over the summer, said at the event his mother-in-law has been in remission for years. Felton's sister has been in remission since January, Bridgewater's mother beat the disease in 2008 and Exum's mother has been cancer-free since he was in ninth grade.

All 32 teams take part in the NFL's breast cancer awareness initiatives each October, but the Vikings have become a team with some poignant stories about the disease now that rookies such as Bridgewater (whose mother blew the Gjallarhorn before Sunday's game) and Exum (whose mother was an honorary captain and did the coin toss for the game against the Detroit Lions) are on the team. Exum talked at length about the importance of early detection, saying his mother was able to avoid chemotherapy through two mastectomies after she was diagnosed.

"I can't speak enough about (early detection). That's what saved my mom," Exum said. "She got checked, found out she was diagnosed with cancer, but they were able to catch it at such an early stage that they didn't have to do chemo and things like that."

Exum said his mother has been texting him all week about how much fun she had at the game on Sunday, teasing him that she'd become a NFL captain before he did. Bridgewater, who goes with his mother to visit breast cancer survivors when he's at home in South Florida, was fighting a stomach bug on Tuesday, but said being part of the event was an obvious way to use his platform to raise awareness about the disease.

"It’s been a huge part of my life because my mom went through the entire process," he said. "I know how much of an impact you can have in someone’s life by being supportive of them."

Current players such as Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger and Marcus Sherels -- as well as retired Vikings such as Bob Lurtsema, Stu Voight, E.J. Henderson and Rickey Young attended the luncheon -- which recognized 10 Minnesota breast cancer survivors and their caregivers.

"It was pretty cool, just to talk with these women," Felton said. "It's a really good cause, obviously, and just to show support for them kind of gives us strength. What we do is easy compared to them."
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."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings added depth to their roster in the form of another free agent on Monday morning, agreeing to terms with former New York Jets guard Vlad Ducasse on a one-year deal, his agent Joe Linta said.

Ducasse started four games for the Jets last season, losing his job after struggling in pass protection at left guard early in the year, but he gives the Vikings another option at guard behind Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco. At 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, he'll add some size to the Vikings' group of interior linemen, and has historically been more effective as a run-blocker than a pass-blocker.

The Vikings had just over $12 million in cap space left before signing Ducasse. With him, Jeff Baca and Joe Berger under contract, the Vikings should have plenty of interior line depth for next season.

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