Thursday, November 30, 2017

Nobody expected Riley Reiff to be this big an upgrade

We knew he’d be better, but to this extent?

By Christopher Gates

November 29, 2017

It’s our weekly theme post day with the rest of our SB Nation football brethren, and this week’s theme is something that we didn’t expect from our favorite team. While there are a lot of things that have been surprising about this team in 2017, I think there’s one particular player that stands out in that regard.

Going into the 2017 offseason, everyone knew that the Minnesota Vikings needed to do something. . .anything. . .to fix the offensive line. While there were some big names available in free agency, such as Andrew Whitworth and Ricky Wagner, Rick Spielman and company set their sights on former Detroit Lions’ offensive tackle Riley Reiff, signing him to a huge five-year contract.

And the crowd went mild.

Reiff wasn’t a “big” name. Heck, in his last year in Detroit he didn’t even play left tackle. He had been displaced to the right side by rookie Taylor Decker, and the Lions thought it was in their best interests to turn him loose. The Vikings signed him, and announced that he would be their starting left tackle. After a season where the combination of Matt Kalil, T.J. Clemmings, and Jake Long offered just slightly more resistance to opposing defenders than wet tissue paper, I think that people expected Reiff to be an upgrade at the left tackle spot. But I’m relatively certain that nobody expect the upgrade to be this huge.

We are through eleven games of the 2017 regular season, and Reiff has still not been credited as having given up a quarterback sack.
The entire offensive line, for the season, has allowed twelve, but Reiff’s protection of Case Keenum’s blindside has been a huge part of why this offensive line is performing at a level far beyond what we could have expected after last season’s debacle.

Reiff has also made his presence felt in the run game, too, bolstering a rushing attack that was the worst in the NFL in 2016.
Even with the absence of star rookie Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ run offense hasn’t missed a beat, and the performance of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon thus far can be attributed to Reiff and the rest of the offensive line.

Reiff is clearly one of the leaders on this team, and he’s even more clearly the leader of this offensive line. As I said earlier, I know that most of us were expecting Reiff to be an improvement over what the team had at left tackle last season, if only because it would have been damn near impossible not to be. But I think I can quite safely say that he has exceeded everyone’s expectations, and is as much of a reason as anyone else for this team currently being at 9-2 and fighting for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

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