The Vikings are about to learn a lot about their offensive line depth.
Kirk Cousins will play in Saturday night’s preseason opener at Denver for as long as the starting offensive line plays, according to coach Mike Zimmer. However, three of the five are expected to remain on the sideline against the Broncos because of injuries.
It’s not the way the Vikings envisioned Cousins’ first snaps. So Zimmer might have to find solace in having 4½ weeks before the season opener against San Francisco, and getting extra exhibition reps to evaluate backups such as center Cornelius Edison and guards Danny Isidora and Tom Compton.
That’s the interior line expected to start Saturday, for what might only be a series or two.
“I’m always concerned about everything,” said Zimmer, when asked if he’s concerned about Cousins starting behind a makeshift offensive line. “So it is what it is.”
Two weeks into training camp, center Pat Elflein has yet to pass a physical and practice. Guard Mike Remmers missed his fifth practice Tuesday due to a left ankle injury. Guard Nick Easton sat out a fourth practice while nursing neck and back injuries that could jeopardize his availability for the Sept. 9 opener against the 49ers. Easton is currently seeking a second opinion on his injuries from Dr. Jack Kelley in New Haven, Conn., according to a league source, and expects a resolution in the next day or two.
Easton was the projected left guard but spent training camp snapping to Cousins as the center. Now Cousins is taking snaps from Edison, the third-string center. Altogether, the Vikings offensive line going into Saturday has 25 career NFL starts outside of left tackle Riley Reiff.
So Cousins’ first Vikings camp has come with the occasional bad snap.
“It isn’t easy having a new center every other snap if that’s what happens,” Cousins said. “It is good preparation for what can happen. It’s great, whether it’s the receivers, O-line or tight ends, to work with guys who are down the line because you never know at what point in the season they’ll be up and ready to go.”
So who is Edison, or ‘Eddie’ as some teammates call him?
The Vikings signed him to the practice squad last year after he was waived by the Falcons. A Washington native, Edison stayed close to home to play at Portland State. He went undrafted in 2015, but a torn ACL stalled his entrance into the league.
Edison saw his first preseason action in 2016 for the Bears. He’s since been cut six times in two NFL seasons, but each time — whether by the Vikings or Bears — a team added him to their practice squad just a day or two later. He wasn’t too interested in talking about the perils of job insecurity.
“Just grind every day,” Edison said. “I’m a team player.”
What’s more revealing is Edison’s background. As a kid in Washington, Edison took part in Relay For Life walks to benefit cancer research after his grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His unconventional name came to his parents, Vincent and Cathleen, while sitting in church one day.
“I started kicking when they were talking about Cornelius in Acts,” Edison said. “That’s where my name came from.”
You might not want to hear his name much Saturday, since broadcasters typically call out offensive linemen when they falter.
Still, he’ll snap for Cousins’ first play with the Vikings.
To Edison’s right will be second-year guard Isidora, a fifth-round pick out of Miami who started one game last season against the Cleveland Browns. To his left will be veteran Compton, who likely will be the first man up should Easton or Remmers miss time.
Compton is the only Vikings offensive lineman who has played with Cousins. The two spent four seasons in Washington together, providing a slim layer of familiarity for the Vikings quarterback entering the preseason.
“There’s a lot of carryover, especially when it comes to the cadence or verbiage,” Compton said. “You kind of pick up on that pretty quickly, so it’s good to be working with him.”
For how long? We’ll see, as Zimmer likes to say.