Starting C John Sullivan was sidelined for much of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury, leaving his status for Week 1 in question and prompting the Vikings to take a look at alternatives at the position. That’s the not-so-great news.
But the better news is that Sullivan has returned to practice over the last couple of days; he was listed as a limited participant for both Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices. Making the news even a little better is what both Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had to say about their starting C this week.
“He seems like he hasn’t missed a beat,” Childress said while meeting with reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “I think that probably he’s going through some of the soreness that you get, maybe not to the same extent as camp, just when you come out here and practice and get pushed around and your muscles talk to you a little bit. I think he’s going through some of that. He’s just working hard to get some of that stamina back.”
Bevell also acknowledged this week that Sullivan seems to be improving, but he also noted that looking good on the practice field and then performing in a regular season game are different monsters.
“He’s looked good,” Bevell said on Monday. “His conditioning has looked good. He’s done things on the side, whether it’s in the pool, whether it’s with [athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman, to keep his conditioning up. But it’s a matter of loading it up and making sure that it will hold up under 65 or 70 plays a game, all the way up to 90 plays.”
The Vikings have done a nice job developing alternatives at the position should Sullivan be unavailable on Thursday night or at another point in the season. Starting RG Anthony Herrera has taken both practice reps and preseason game reps at C, and regular backup Jon Cooper has also taken turns with the 1st-team offense.
“We like what we saw from Anthony,” Bevell said. “We like what we’ve seen from Cooper. It gives us the flexibility to say who we would put in there. We’re not going to put that out there. Both guys have done a nice job. I think both guys are capable of it, and we want to make sure that when we put those guys out there that we’re going to have the five best guys that are going to help us win.”
The line is at its best with Sullivan at C, but the possibility exists that he won’t be able to go on Thursday night in New Orleans. If that’s the case, either Cooper or Herrera will fill in. My sense is that Cooper would get the call at this point, which is the simplest change for the Vikings to make.
But Childress and Bevell could also decide to put Herrera in at C, which would keep Cooper as the 1st reserve and would then slide rookie Chris DeGeare in at RG. Herrera has performed well while playing C this preseason, but the issue with this alignment is it takes away from the team’s depth at G because the 1st reserve at the position – DeGeare – would be forced into the starting lineup with Herrera moving over from RG.
Any way it shakes out, the Vikings offensive line will be prepared for Thursday night’s game.
Tags: Anthony Herrera, Chris DeGeare, Darrell Bevell, John Sullivan, Jon Cooper
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 39 Comments »