MINNEAPOLIS -- After he hired Tony Sparano -- his longtime colleague and fellow Bill Parcells disciple -- to coach the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line, Mike Zimmer said he was looking forward to Sparano's personality rubbing off on the Vikings' line.
General manager Rick Spielman has said Sparano came to Minnesota with a precise template for his linemen, and former San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone would seem to fit it: a 6-foot-8, 300-pound behemoth who should bring versatility to the group, along with a nastiness that's been missing from the unit.
Boone shifted from right guard to left guard in last year in San Francisco, where Sparano was the tight ends coach, and could line up next to Matt Kalil on that side of the line in Minnesota. Putting Boone at left guard would allow the Vikings to move Brandon Fusco back to the right side, where he'd developed his niche in the past, and provide a measure of stability for Kalil before the left tackle's pivotal season in Minnesota. The Vikings made a strong push for Baltimore Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele, but after he agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal with the Oakland Raiders, Boone seemed like a logical fit.
It's been clear since the end of the season -- when Zimmer decided not to renew offensive line coach Jeff Davidson -- that change would be coming to the group, and it probably needed to happen. The Vikings have allowed Teddy Bridgewater to be pressured on roughly one-third of his dropbacks over the last two years, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and there's a belief within the organization that Adrian Peterson's 1,485-yard season could have been even better if he'd had cleaner running lanes in front of him. The Vikings still have questions to answer on the line -- Kalil's future, John Sullivan's return from back surgery and Loadholt's health among them -- but injecting some verve into the group isn't a bad thing. Boone should certainly provide that.
His best work in San Francisco came on the right side of a bruising line, and he could also be a fit at right tackle, in the event Phil Loadholt is injured again. Wherever the Vikings put him, Boone should deliver an edge to a beleaguered unit. And the move to add him to the group, on the heels of the Vikings' pursuit of Osemele, points to a team looking to address its biggest problem with panache. The Sparano hire signaled it, and Boone's addition should help put it into practice.