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Getty Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison's job security has come into question.

The Minnesota Vikings filled six coaching vacancies this offseason, yet, it was the decision to keep one coach that has been the biggest storyline that’s vexed the Vikings.

Former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak installed his zone-run, play-action-driven scheme that worked wonders for Minnesota, which finished fourth in total offense last season.

Kubiak retired this offseason, leaving the keys to his son, Klint Kubiak, who will steer the Vikings offense in 2021.

Minnesota opted to keep Kubiak’s longtime partner, run-game coordinator and offensive line coach Rick Dennison around — a decision that has drawn some criticism among fans.

The Vikings offensive line has remained a bane to the team’s success for over a decade for its struggles in pass protection and keeping Dennison, along with a lack of cap space, offers little optimism that the trend will turn around any time soon.

InsidetheVikings’ Will Ragatz raised several concerns facing Dennison’s line as is. Meanwhile, several strong replacements are sitting without work currently.

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 Vikings Offensive Line Regressed With Dennison

While the Vikings offensive line was part of the team’s success, especially in helping Dalvin Cook rack up over 1,500 rushing yards last season, the unit was horrendous in pass protection.

The team has been built to run the ball, however, that doesn’t mean pass protection needs to be compromised to have success on the ground.

Minnesota made a run to the 2018 NFC Championship game with an offensive line that was middling at best, ranking 17th in pass protection. For the past three seasons, the line has regressed. Dennison took over the unit in 2019 after it ranked 27th in pass protection in 2018 — a mark it matched in 2019 — before producing the fourth-worst pass protection grade in 2020.

Ragatz weighed blame on both Dennison and Kubiak’s scheme. Here’s what he wrote:

As I mentioned, blame can be put on the Kubiak scheme, which is outdated in its focuses on running the football and rarely ever using 11 personnel (three wide receivers on the field at once). The front office, in trying to maximize that scheme, has drafted players like Bradbury whose athleticism is a plus in the running game but whose inability to pass block has hindered the Vikings in a major way. The focus on “scheme fit” among offensive line prospects has frustrated fans because it seems to prioritize mobility over protecting Cousins.

But blame can also be assigned to Dennison for the troubling lack of development among offensive linemen since he arrived. Bradbury doesn’t appear to have taken any meaningful strides since he was drafted. O’Neill regressed slightly in 2020, which may be concerning for the Vikings as they enter into extension talks with his camp this offseason. Day 3 picks like Dru Samia and Oli Udoh haven’t panned out, which may or may not have anything to do with poor coaching. It’s still too early to tell with Cleveland.

Ragatz raised the idea of potentially hiring longtime Green Bay Packers offensive line coach James Campen after he was let go by the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason. Los Angeles Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is also available and rehauled the Rams offensive line.

In his first year with the Rams, the line ranked 13th in pass blocking and fifth in run blocking. The following season, those rankings improved to seventh and first, per Ragatz.

Kromer excelled in coaching the Rams line that played under the same wide zone scheme that the Vikings run, making the possibility of his transition to Minnesota seamless.

Vikings Have Failed to Develop Linemen

If Minnesota does stick with Dennison — which is the most likely case — the Vikings will have to work against its recent history of failing to develop linemen.

Minnesota hasn’t had an offensive lineman make a Pro Bowl since Matt Kalil’s rookie year in 2012. The last lineman to be drafted by the Vikings and make multiple Pro Bowls is Matt Birk, who was drafted in 1998.

Problems with pass protection may not ever be solved with Mike Zimmer at the helm of the team. Since 2014, the Vikings have had one season of middling pass protection that was complimented by the league’s best defense.

Minnesota’s defense is far from its 2017 form, which could likely leave the offense needing to throw just as much as it did in 2020 — a harbinger of struggles if the Vikings don’t find a way to improve the line offseason.

Vikings team pass block grade and rank since 2014:

2014: 72.4 (23rd)
2015: 67.9 (28th)
2016: 64.7 (30th)
2017: 71.9 (17th)
2018: 63.6 (27th)
2019: 63.0 (27th)
2020: 55.5 (29th)

???? #Skol

— PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) January 14, 2021


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Connect with Trevor Squire on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.


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Insider Paints Bleak Picture of Allen Robinson & Bears: This is Insane

Getty Bears WR Allen Robinson

Things aren’t looking good for Allen Robinson and the Chicago Bears. Chicago failed to extend its best offensive player after having numerous occasions to do so, leaving fans, media and Robinson’s teammates alike either questioning the organization for its inaction or urging the team to hurry up and get a deal done.

Instead of rewarding Robinson for being one of the top receivers in the league over the last three seasons while working with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, though, the Bears allowed the 27-year-old wideout and his agent Brandon Parker to grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of discussion and adequate compensation offered by the team.

With the NFL’s 2021 franchise tag window beginning on February 23 (and ending on March 9), Chicago is expected to use the tag on Robinson — who has already expressed he won’t be too happy if that happens. Tensions between the talented wideout and his team have never been higher — and now, one top insider who has known Robinson since his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars thinks the road is only going to get rougher.

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How Did it Get to This Point?

Ty Dunne, whose interview with Robinson for Go Long provided an in depth look at the receiver’s mindset this offseason, spoke with Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune about what he learned.

“As an outsider, my first thought about this all was that this is insane,” Dunne began. “Allen Robinson is a) incredibly talented. Only two wide receivers have more yards over the last two years, and b), he’s about as low maintenance as they come. Genuinely. Isn’t gonna make a stink, isn’t gonna roll his eyes let alone say anything when the ball is thrown over his head, or he’s not getting the ball in the red zone. He’s got that zen to him, and that’s rare at that position.”

Robinson had seven targets in the red zone over the first 10 games in 2020, which Dunne referenced, and despite playing for a team loaded with uncertainty, A-Rob remained a pillar of strength and consistency since his arrival in 2018. “How did it get to this point? It really did blow my mind, because Allen Robinson isn’t one to just invent things. He doesn’t make stuff up. He wouldn’t do that to gain leverage or to re-create a narrative,” Dunne said.

“From the inside looking out, we say the same thing: How did we get here?” Wiederer added.

Talks Have Been Non-Existent for Months

The Bears and Robinson haven’t had serious contract talks since Week 2 of last season, and for his part, the wide receiver told Dunne he simply wants to receive his market value. “For myself — as much as I wanted a deal done — I wanted a fair deal,” Robinson said, adding:

It would be like if I told somebody, ‘You are qualified for this job. And this is what the other people at that job are making. But you can’t make that. Nobody in America would even do that. You see people go from job to job on an everyday basis in America. They get a job, they fill out another resume because, now, they have the experience. They go from company to company to company, at the same time, increasing their salaries. But for players, when you get in that situation where you’re even up for a contract, it’s almost a lose-lose between the fans and — for a lot of players, not just myself — even the organization and teammates. The narrative of the story is so muddied up for no reason at all, when players just want what their value is.

Dunne says that if the Bears do tag Robinson, the wideout is likely going to do something an increasing number of players in the league are doing: He’s going to speak his mind and exercise the power he has as a player. “That’s where it gets really interesting because Allen Robinson’s makeup is to not be that guy who’s publicly bashing anybody, who’s doing anything really to force his way out,” Dunne said. “I think if it gets to that point and he does try to force his way out … a lot of these players around the league have just tried to say ‘You know what? Screw whatever the contract says and whatever the CBA says, I’m getting out of here my way.'”

Dunne also says that if Robinson does decide to protest the tag, he could be an influential force in a rapidly changing league: “The franchise tag is this archaic, weaponized tool used by teams to really not let a guy get what he’s worth,” Dunne said. “If Allen Robinson draws that line in the sand, I think we are going to see more of a shift with stars taking control.”

This is Where it’s Heading…

Would A-Rob sit out the entire season? “I don’t think he’ll take it that far,” Dunne said, although he also noted Robinson will likely “push back” if the Bears tag him. Will A-Rob ask for a trade and/or sit out several games? Dunne says that’s the most probable scenario.

A tag-and-trade scenario is also possible, and Chicago could also still tag Robinson and try to sign him to a long-term deal afterward. Anything is on the table. But if the Bears are serious about finding a franchise quarterback, they might want to make sure he has someone to throw to — and it doesn’t get much better than Robinson. We’ll all know soon enough what the team’s plan is — but we don’t know how Robinson will react to said plan, and that could make all the difference.

You can watch Dunne’s full interview with Wiederer below:

The details behind Allen Robinson's future with the Chicago BearsChicago Bears receiver Allen Robinson has been waiting on a contract extension for the better part of the last year. Now his current deal is set to expire and a staring contest with the Bears continues. Will Robinson be given the franchise tag or transition tag? Will he head for the open market of free…2021-02-19T20:50:06Z

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