Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil will miss his first start after 66 consecutive to begin his career. Kalil has been struggling most of the last two seasons with various nagging injuries but has been able to play through them in the past. His latest injury to the hip could potentially end his season after being placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Matt Kalil Injury Highlights Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line Woes
The Vikings have been successful in most areas of the game this year but the one glaring hole has been the offensive line. Free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith have been underwhelming, and Brandon Fusco continues to be one of the worst offensive guards in the league. Kalil hasn’t played well through two games this season, be it because of injury or simple performance.
It is unclear at this time how long Kalil will be out with his injury but the injured reserve rules allow a team to bring one player off of the list back to the roster during the season. The Vikings still have that option available because they haven’t used it this year.
Matt Kalil’s Promise Was Never Reached
When the Vikings drafted Kalil fourth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, the general consensus among fans and media was that they had found their franchise left tackle for the next decade. In his rookie season, Kalil seemingly proved he was worthy of that praise in earning Pro Bowl honors.
Kalil’s next two seasons were disappointments. In 2013, his play slipped and a year later he hit rock bottom, allowing 55 quarterback pressures that ranked second most in the league. In 2015 Kalil improved marginally allowing 44 pressures according to Pro Football Focus stats. 2016 was a contract year for Kalil where he had to prove his worth or probably be sent packing.
An Uncertain Future
In a year that he needed to earn a contract, being placed on injured reserve is a huge hit to Kalil’s chances of re-signing with the Vikings. Kalil is not under contract for 2017 so the Vikings have no cap considerations should they part ways with him. Whether he returns to Minnesota or finds work elsewhere, missing a large portion of 2016 will lower his open market value.
The Vikings are unlikely to sign Kalil to a new contract given his performance and injury history. While Rick Spielman may well be interested in having Kalil back, it will be at the right price and in the right role. Matt Kalil is likely to be playing in another city next season.
What This Means For the Offensive Line Going Forward
Second year offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings will be taking over at left tackle. Clemmings was drafted in the fourth round in 2015 and started all 16 games as a rookie at right guard in place of injured and now retired Phil Loadholt. While credit should be given to Clemmings for the effort, nobody plans to have a rookie fourth-round pick start all 16 games. As a rookie at right tackle, he was one of the worst offensive tackles in the league. Over the off-season, Clemmings made the switch over to left tackle where he was to be Matt Kalil’s backup.
In reviewing film from the preseason and first two regular-season games, Clemmings doesn’t appear to be a big step down from an injured Kalil. There isn’t much film of Clemmings at left tackle but he did get first-team reps against the Chargers. In those reps, Clemmings looked capable in both run blocking and pass protection. Clemmings may not be as good as a healthy Kalil but he may be as good as an injury-depleted Kalil.
The entire offensive line has been problematic this season but the right side of the line has been the biggest problem. The majority of the pressure and sacks have come from the right side where Smith and Fusco are responsible. If play continues as it has, the Vikings may have no choice but to put second-year center Nick Easton in and move Joe Berger to right guard to replace Fusco. Assuming Easton is up to the job, it could solidify the right side of the line. On the left side, there is simply no depth to put anyone other than Clemmings at left tackle and Boone is clearly better than the next player in line.
The injury to Matt Kalil will have a significant effect on the offensive line. Clemmings may be able to come in and fill in nicely but there is no depth remaining. For Kalil, the injury is unfortunate timing to come in a contract year and could cost him a spot with the Vikings and money wherever he signs in the off-season. Pair Kalil’s injury and likely exit to Adrian Peterson‘s injury and likely exit in the off-season and two prominent names could be off the roster at season’s end.