EAGAN — When the Minnesota Vikings came out of halftime without veteran left tackle Riley Reiff, there was cause for concern.
Not only has Reiff put together a strong season at one of the most valuable positions in the sport but his assignment was largely former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. But experienced swing tackle Rashod Hill came off the bench and allowed zero sacks, zero QB hits and zero pressures (per PFF) in the second half.
“I think Rashod (Hill) has proven to be very versatile,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s our swing tackle, so he has to be ready to go in on the right side, on the left side. You saw in that game he came in and I thought performed pretty well. Riley’s a captain of this team, certainly want him out there. If he’s not available to go, that’s why you have backups that are on point like Rashod like he showed this last week. Rashod is certainly a guy that we’ve leaned on. He’s came in during a game before. He’s come in during the week. He’s really taken the bit as being a player that is always ready to go.”
Monday night’s game wasn’t the first time that Hill has been asked to jump up off the bench and stop a quality pass rusher. Against Philadelphia he entered in relief of Reiff and had the same results: Zero pressures on Kirk Cousins. In 85 total snaps Hill is yet to give up so much as a QB hurry.
“It’s good to have him, he can play both sides,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Need guys like that.”
The Vikings may need him to continue his quality play if Reiff can’t go this week against the Detroit Lions. The starting left tackle missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices.
For a swing tackle who was undrafted and signed off Jacksonville’s practice squad in 2016, Hill has a good amount of NFL experience. He has 1,400 total snaps, 882 of which have come at right tackle, 493 on the left side and a handful as an extra lineman. Last season he won the starting job over Brian O’Neill — who hasn’t allowed a sack all season — but eventually saw the second-round pick in 2018 take over the starting gig.
Swing tackles who can be trusted on both sides against good competition are hard to find in the NFL. That’s why the Vikings gave him a $2 million deal as a restricted free agent this offseason rather than drafting a replacement or signing someone on the cheap. That decision could pay dividends if he has to start down the stretch as he did in 2017.
— With Ron Rivera out in Carolina, the Panthers are already being connected to Kevin Stefanski as a possible replacement. The Panthers bumped up Scott Turner to offensive coordinator for the final four games in order to give him a shot at being the next OC. If they want to keep him on, that would even strengthen the possibility of hiring Stefanski since the two worked together in Minnesota.
“Excited for him,” Stefanski said. “Never good in this business when people are losing jobs to get an opportunity that way, that’s not the fun way to do it, but any of us and you’re getting your first opportunity to call plays, I think is exciting. I think you have to lean on your assistant coaches. I think he has a really group down there to help him out.”
— The Vikings drafted Armon Watts with hopes he could be a development project. With the few opportunities he’s gotten due to injuries, the former Arkansas DT has been a noticeable presence. With Linval Joseph coming back quickly from injury, we may see more of Watts in the rotation.
“He’s really done a nice job in the run game,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s done a nice job. He tipped a pass last week that ended up going for an interception, so he’s really shown an ability to be able to go and adjust and adapt to what it is we’re asking him to do. He’s been pretty successful with what we’re asking him to do.”
— With the Bears beating the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football, all of the sudden Week 17 between the Vikings and Bears looks more interesting. Chicago is still 1.5 games back of the Vikings but the Bears would have a tiebreaker because of the Week 4 game at Soldier Field. Chicago plays Green Bay next week with an extra few days rest.