Vikings Lose Tackle Phil Loadholt to Torn Achilles
The Minnesota Vikings were already trying to put the pieces together on an offensive line that struggled for stretches in 2014. Heading into the 2015 NFL season, that was at least some hope there would be continuity and improvement – especially with star running back Adrian Peterson returning.
Minnesota’s high hopes for that turn around took a hit on Saturday night, when they learned star right tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
#Vikings OT Phil Loadholt suffered a torn Achilles, source said. After he’d worked his way back from last year. Brutal.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 16, 2015
It’s devastating news for several reasons, as Loadholt had worked his way back from a torn pectoral that robbed him of his final five games last season. It’s an even bigger disaster for Minnesota, who now has to search for an answer at right tackle after having it figured out with the stable Loadholt. The task of replacing Loadholt figures to fall on fourth-round rookie T.J. Clemmings, who is the early favorite to step up and start on the right side.
The Loss of Phil Loadholt could end up putting further pressure on former top pick Matt Kalil, who continues to try to lock down the left side of the o-line this season. Kalil has thus far dealt with inconsistency in his career, and was especially shaky at times in 2014. With one of Minnesota’s best pass protectors now on the shelf, Kalil may have to pick up the slack on the other side to ensure quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is properly protected.
Considering the Vikes already weren’t in an ideal spot with their offensive line going into the new season, it’s hard to feel good about their ability to both run-block and protect the quarterback now. It’s entirely possible Kalil realizes his potential and the young Cummings steps up to the challenge, but if not, a Minnesota team that already faced long odds to compete for a title (40/1 Super Bowl odds) could find it even more difficult to sneak into the playoffs.
Minnesota could be tested early in often in the NFC North alone, as the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears all have solid pass-rushing talent that could give them trouble on both sides of the line. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were terrorizing in blitzes a year ago, while the Bears and Lions have Jared Allen and Ziggy Ansah, respectively.
It’s possible Adrian Peterson returning can help the offense balance out enough to take pressure off of Bridgewater and allow the offensive line to establish a balance, but the loss of Loadholt shouldn’t be ignored. Should Cummings not be able to handle the starting gig, Minnesota may even be forced to explore options via trade or out on the open market.
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