When Mike Remmers was thrust into action at right guard in Week 17 of the 2017 season, nobody knew it would be a possible 2018 preview.
The 2017 free agent acquisition had made all his starts at right tackle, but with Nick Easton out with a broken ankle and Pat Elflein missing time with a shoulder injury, Remmers was asked to move inside. He wound up flipping to left guard for the team’s two postseason games, further foreshadowing the notion that guard was Remmers’ future position.
To make the case stronger, right guard Joe Berger retired, leaving a hole on the right side of the line, and instead of drafting a guard early on in the draft, the Vikings went with tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round.
In two out of three OTAs open to the media this spring, Remmers has been the first-team right guard.
“I’m just doing whatever they tell me to do,” Remmers told Zone Coverage. “Playing at either spot really helps me as an overall player, so I’m enjoying it.”
At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Remmers is on the tall side for a guard, though he matches the size of Minnesota’s sixth-round pick Colby Gossett, who will be competing for a job this preseason.
The Vikings arguably have less outside flexibility than they did at this time last year. T.J. Clemmings, Willie Beavers and even Alex Boone all had the ability to play guard or tackle, but none survived last September’s roster cuts. Currently, the majority of Minnesota’s interior linemen have limited tackle experience, which makes Remmers’ flexibility a bonus for the group.
“Mike’s a very instinctive player in there,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “He sees a lot of things. He’s got good quickness. He’s got good power. He’s been able to get the 3-technique reached a couple times, been able to sit down on some guys rushing.”
It’s not as if the move inside comes because of any drastic struggles Remmers had last season at tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Remmers was one of just seven tackles not to be faulted with a sack allowed.
But a permanent move to right guard should not present too great of a challenge for Remmers since most of the footwork and hand techniques are similar, as opposed to the reversed techniques on the left side. Still, says Remmers, the game speeds up when you move inside.
“It’s faster, they’re right next to you, and the guys are generally a little bit bigger too,” he said, referring to the nose tackles.
“it helps me overall in the offense in general, knowing more specifically what each guy on the field is doing.”
Remmers’ future at guard may not be entirely dependent on his performance, but rather the evaluation of those next to him. Rashod Hill, and perhaps the rookie O’Neill, will vie for the starting right tackle position, but if neither performs well, Remmers could find himself back on the outside, opening the door for a guard competition between Tom Compton, Danny Isidora, Josh Andrews and Gossett.
The Vikings have to yet to be at full strength this spring with Pat Elflein missing OTAs while he recovers from ankle surgery, thereby affecting the team’s guard rotations with Nick Easton filling in at center.
“We’re still trying to figure out with Elflein hurt where we’re going to go for the rest of [the line],” Zimmer said, “but it’s good to have a guy [like Remmers] that can move around.”
“It definitely does help me,” said Remmers, “and it helps me overall in the offense in general, knowing more specifically what each guy on the field is doing. Before, when I was younger, I would just be worried about what the tackle does on each play, but now I feel like I have a really good idea of what everyone on the line’s doing.”