Davidson sees a better offensive line already

Charlie Johnson (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)

Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has been talking about Charlie Johnson playing guard since early last season. Now that it's a reality, he talked about the options the Vikings have.

The Minnesota Vikings' selection of USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil will have a trickle-down effect.

Kalil moves in as the starting left tackle immediately, pushing Charlie Johnson inside to left guard, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson confirmed Friday. It's a move that Davidson has been discussing with Johnson since Week 3 of the last year – remember that Johnson joined the Vikings at the start of training camp and Davidson just joined the Vikings coaching staff last season.

"This was something that's kind of been ongoing. I'm going to try and put it as nice as I can. I'm a no-nonsense guy. And essentially when I think that I see a guy and I know what he is capable of and what he would help us most at, I'm going to let him know that," Davidson said. "Our postseason interviews that we had when I talked to Charlie, I said, ‘You may be our left tackle. You may be our left guard. I don't know yet. We're going to be better at two positions if we get a left tackle in here.'"

The Vikings have been hot on the possibility of selecting Kalil, unanimously considered the best left tackle in the draft and maybe the only one that can come in and start immediately, for months. Davidson knew the Kalil family from coaching Matt's brother, Ryan, a Pro Bowl center, with the Carolina Panthers.

The addition of Matt, who is 6-foot-7 and now 310 pounds, put Davidson's vision into action. Johnson will be playing left guard.

"I just saw him today and explained to him, ‘You two guys are going to be best friends.' And I introduced Charlie to his family, Matt's family, as well. They all know who he is," Davidson said. "I said, ‘There isn't going to be any bad blood.' And Charlie said, ‘I just want to win games.' He does not care where he plays this game. He just wants to help us win. That's the type of guy he is. That's why I fall in love with the guys from Day 1."

Davidson said Johnson graded out better than most people believe last year in his first season in Minnesota after playing left tackle for the Indianapolis Colts. However, the offensive line coach also confirmed he views Johnson better suited to play guard.

"I think he's more compact. He doesn't have quite the length that Matt has. He is a good athlete so he was able to survive – the term I might use – at left tackle. He'll battle with the best of 'em," Davidson said.

Kalil was the fastest offensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a hand-timed 4.96-second 40-yard dash. Davidson said the addition of him at left tackle could open opportunities for the tackles to pull more in the running game. Johnson's athleticism at guard with John Sullivan at center will offer them options to pull their interior linemen more, as well.

"The fact that (Johnson) has an opportunity to be able to use his athleticism as a puller, the smarts to be able to help our new left tackle, and transfer information from our center to that, he's going to help fill the bill at guard," Davidson said. "He can play any position on the line if we asked him to, in all honesty. I just think if we had to pick one for him, it's the offensive guard position. So this helps us in a lot of ways."

While Johnson is expected to be better at guard, Davidson said he was willing to play wherever, a quality the offensive line coach appreciates.

"The guy went hard all the time. That makes my job easy when someone's willing to put forth all the effort that they have to get things done. And he will and he does and will continue to. He'll just be able to do it in a different position now and we knew that going in, quite honestly."

Davidson said the drafting of Kalil and the overall vision of the offensive line has been discussed regularly since the offseason began.

With three-fifth of the offensive line positions seeing new players, it could take some time, and Davidson admits that he can never be sure about the results until he sees the linemen all playing together, but he doesn't anticipate a scaled-back scheme.

"(Offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave does a great job of keeping things kind of concise to start with, so I don't think that we'll cut back on anything that we're going to do," Davidson said. "We do know that as time goes by and we start seeing that maybe we can't do this or we need to do more of this, he'll adjust to that before I even have a chance to tell him that's what we need to do. He's smarter than I am, so it's just one of those things that I think he's very good at. But we'll play to what we think we have the ability to do."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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