This article was originally published on March 10.
When a certain pudgy sportswriter was attending college, the Kansas City Chiefs were about to host a scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings during training camp. As I got to the field, I met a gentleman who — shocker — was a lifelong Vikings fan. (For these purposes, we’ll just call him Frank.)
As Frank stood there in his Adrian Peterson jersey, he decided to bestow some of his wisdom upon me when it comes to players that put on a purple jersey.
“There’s always that one player on the roster you can’t stand,” Frank explained. “For me, that guy was Dontarrious Thomas. [Heck], I hated him so much, my kids actually thought his first name was bitch!”
“Since then, when I’ve had an issue with a player on the roster, I’ve understood why: He’s The One.” For many, “The One” has been offensive tackle Matt Kalil.
After being selected with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kalil went out and had a Pro Bowl season while looking like the dominant left tackle that everybody thought he would be. However, his play has slipped over the past couple of seasons. After a decent 2013, where he allowed just four sacks, he’s hit rock bottom over the past two years by giving up 18 (with 12 coming in 2014).
As Kalil has resembled more of a swinging gate than a brick wall at left tackle, the fans have used him as a constant scapegoat for a line that’s struggled to protect Teddy Bridgewater. Because of that, the Vikings knew they needed to go after some help on the line and decided to upgrade the left guard position by signing Alex Boone.
When you think about it, there were many spots the Vikings could have upgraded on the line that would have made sense. Prior to restructuring his contract, Phil Loadholt was a cap casualty candidate and Mike Harris almost walked out the door until the Vikings gave him a one-year deal on Wednesday afternoon.
With Joe Berger (or John Sullivan) entrenched at center, left guard was not only the only choice for an upgrade…it was the best spot to do it.
Many times, a strong offensive line can turn into a sieve with one weak link. For Kalil, the left guard position has been a black hole that hasn’t been doing him any favors. For the first three years, he had Charlie Johnson, who was an average, but not spectacular guard. He would post negative overall grades from Pro Football Focus in two of those years.
Last year, Kalil was paired with Brandon Fusco on the left side. Fusco was spectacular on the right side prior to a pectoral injury that ended his 2014 season, but never looked comfortable next to Kalil and graded 73rd out of 82 qualifying guards.
By comparison, Boone graded 16th in pass coverage while allowing just three sacks last season. The fact that he is also a bulldozer in the running game should allow him to be the solid all-around guard that Kalil hasn’t played with his entire professional career. Mix in a healthy offseason where Kalil isn’t having surgery on his plasma-injected knees and he could be heading toward his best professional season yet.
Such a scenario would benefit both the team and Kalil as the Vikings could hand the keys to the offense to Bridgewater while Kalil could cash in on a strong contract year.
Photo credit: Kyle Hansen, Cumulus Media