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home : columns : joel alvstad
March 28, 2020

1/15/2020 3:34:00 PM
Line needs to be addressed

Joel Alvstad
Sports Editor

The Vikings' season that seemed to be ready to roar through the playoffs came to an end with a whimper Saturday.
The Vikings were completely dominated by the 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The game was never as close as the 27-10 final score might indicate.
The Vikings' offense was plagued by the inability to move the ball on the ground, forcing the team to become one-dimensional to try to gain yardage. That allowed the 49ers to pin back their ears, harass Kirk Cousins into six sacks and make things generally miserable for players and fans alike.
Over the years, the Vikings have never been good enough to win it all, but they've also never been bad enough to be able to restock through the draft without mortgaging the present or future.
But I think that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer can both see that the team is close, and to get over the hump, the biggest weakness needs to be addressed.
The offensive line needs to be overhauled if the Vikings are going to get to the Super Bowl. Which means that Spielman and Zimmer will need to put their love of drafting defensive backs on the back burner for at least a year.
The Vikings prospects of signing a lineman via free agency are minimal - the team currently has next to no salary cap space for next year.
That means that the draft will be about the only way for the Vikings to address their biggest need.
While it's unlikely that the Vikings will be able to make a play for one of the absolute top linemen in the draft, they should be able to make a significant upgrade at left tackle with their pick in the second half of the first round.
The Vikings seem to be set at center with rookie Garrett Bradbury and at left guard with Pat Elflein. Right tackle Brian O'Neill also had a solid season. But improvement at right guard could be a necessity. And more depth is absolutely critical.
Perhaps more importantly, the Vikings could benefit from a change in coaching staff. Getting an offensive coordinator who can maximize the team's talent will be a major task for the team this off-season, after Kevin Stefanski left to become the Browns' head coach.
I'm sure Zimmer and Spielman will look at the defensive woes late in the season and point to the need to upgrade the secondary. And they aren't necessarily wrong. But if the Vikings are going to take the next step, they need major improvement on the offensive line.
Cheaters prosper?
Last year, Major League Baseball concluded an investigation into the 2017 Houston Astros that determined the Astros were using a camera system to steal signs from the opposing teams' catchers. Someone in the dugout would bang on a garbage can if a breaking pitch was coming, giving the batter a heads-up of what pitch to expect.
On Monday, MLB suspended both the Astros general manager and field manager for an entire season because of the cheating scandal. MLB also stripped the Astros of draft picks and fined the team.
The team later fired its general manager, as well as field manager A.J. Hinch.
That's all fine and good. They cheated, got caught and have to pay the price.
But you aren't going to see MLB take away the Astros 2017 World Series trophy, which apparently sends the message that even though you'll be fired if you get caught, if you don't get caught while you win nothing will happen.
I guess I'm beginning to understand the whole Steroid Era better every day.

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