Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Sullivan Era Begins (Hopefully)

Matt Birk has signed with the Ravens, which means that next year the Vikings line will be led by second year center John Sullivan. I don't know enough about offensive line play to know how big an effect this will have on the Vikings' line, but everyone seems to agree that Birk played quite well last year. Mike Lombardi thinks it's going to be a big deal for the Purple, but the real question is not whether Birk was let go a year (or two) too early (and it's better to let someone go a year too early than a year too late), but whether John Sullivan can play as well as Birk did.

And yes, he's young, but what people are forgetting is that Birk was once unproven too. He became the Vikings starting center in his third year, replacing Pro Bowler Jeff Christy, who had signed with the Buccaneers. And everyone was worried about the young, unproven Birk taking over for the experienced Christy. Of course, everyone had forgotten that Christy had been unproven when he became the Vikings' starting center in his second season.

And let's not forget--the Vikings' line wasn't that great last year. According to Football Outsiders, they were only 15th in adjusted line yards and 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate. And while Birk played well last year, the Vikings still had trouble running the ball up the middle, finishing 19th in rushing yards on runs between the guards.

So if the Vikings' think Sullivan can step in for Birk and play as well as he did last year, that's good enough reason for me not to be too worried. As Kevin Seifert points out, if they'd wanted to extend him, they would have done so earlier. I'd feel a little better if they had found a better right tackle in free agency (which at this point likely will have to happen through the draft, though there are some short term solutions available) so that Ryan Cook could back up both center and right tackle, rather than start, but that hasn't happened yet. Either way, the Purple were going to have to replace Birk at some point, which is why they drafted Sullivan last year.

More on Birk's signing:
  • John Sullivan speaks with Access Vikings
  • Joe Flacco is excited to play with his new center
  • Randball chronicles the timeline of Birk's free agency


Anonymous said...

my only experience watching sullivan was at nd, when he was the senior leader of a young o-line that let up the most sacks in div I his senior season. sullivan had a terrible year his senior season. he repeatedly botched shotgun snaps, leading to him being replaced in a couple games. this kid got destroyed by good college DT's. i hope he's a much different player now.

DUI_Guy said...

No offense, but is there any reason why you left out the fact that Jimmy Clausen, Demetrius Jones and Evan Sharpley all started games at QB that season? How about Sullivan's performance at center in '06 and '05 (granted he didn't start the whole '05 season), when Brady Quinn was there?

DUI_Guy said...

BTW, off-topic, but Torry Holt requested his release. The Rams want to try and trade him instead.

The question is, who wants to take on his contract? He supposedly wants to play in North Carolina, but the Panthers haven't expressed interest since he made that announcement the year before.

Of course, the "prospect" of playing with Jackson and Rosenfels could scare him off the way it did Houshmandzadeh.

Anonymous said...

Lets sign TO.