The Minnesota Vikings have placed starting RG Pat Elflein on the IR. With this injury, Pat Elflein will need to be on the IR for at least three weeks. The attention now turns to how Minnesota plans on replacing him in the starting lineup.
The safe money rests in Dru Samia receiving an opportunity to start. He is the backup and made the 53-man roster. The Vikings chose Samia in the fourth round of the 2019 draft for precisely this opportunity.
Nevertheless, it’s been clear throughout the offseason that Samia hasn’t matured into the player the Vikings were hoping. It’s entirely possible that he’ll blossom once he gets game opportunity. After all, some guys flip a switch on game day and become totally different players. This possibility, though, seems unlikely.
The other possibilities are Aviante Collins, Brett Jones, Ezra Cleveland, and Dakota Dozier. Both Collins and Jones are on the practice squad. The new rules make it easy for the Vikings to promote one or both players. Collins was seemingly in the running for the starting LG position throughout training camp. The Vikings have always been enamored by his athleticism. Jones is a backup center who performs better in pass protection than he does in run blocking. He is well-respected by coaches and teammates, but offers limited upside.
The other option is to shuffle the line. We’ve already suggested that moving Cleveland over the RG doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would require him to learn very different footwork for the position. Dozier, though, is a veteran journeyman who has experience at multiple positions. It’s entirely possible the Vikings think it’s best to move Dozier to RG and then put Cleveland in at LG.
Mike Zimmer consistently reiterates that his goal is to get the five best starting o-linemen on the field. The Pat Elflein injury and subsequent placement on the IR opens an intriguing competition on the OL.