Rauscher brought the same approach to the Vikings in 2020 when he was an assistant offensive line coach.
But with Rick Dennison, who has spent the last two seasons as the team’s offensive line coach and game coordinator, now working virtually due to COVID-19 protocols agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, Rauscher is become the man in charge. Minnesota also signed Ben Steele as an assistant offensive line coach.
“It’s exciting. It’s an opportunity I’ve worked my whole life for, and to have the chance to work with these great guys was a whirlwind, but it was fun,” said Rauscher. . “I prepared for it, I had excellent teachers and coaches in [Dennison] and Callahan and Gary Kubiak, and that just lived the dream.
“It wasn’t a huge jump or anything like that, so when they called me up and told me what was going to happen, I was excited,” Rauscher added later. “And then it gave us a chance to bring in Ben Steele and take over what my role was last year, and he did a great job in two weeks, getting involved with the players, and he has a good idea of what we’re doing just because it’s been in this system. “
Vikings offensive linemen said this week that they welcomed the transition recently.
“Ever since Phil stepped in, he’s been running it from day one. No hesitation,” Dozier said. “He was the [offensive] line trainer, not a New line trainer. Communication has been good. He is passionate and trains us hard.
“Phil gives you energy no matter how much energy you have. If you are a little tired he can give you a little extra energy to help you get through it,” Dozier said. . “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 80-yard run or a sack, he’s going to be excited and training hard. The energy he brings never stops, and I love that.”
Oli Udoh added: “Phil is awesome… [he’s a] character. But honestly, I feel that what he taught me fundamentally, especially about the transition from tackle to goalkeeper, has helped me a lot in those early pairs practice. A little loud at times, but the message is usually clear that he just wants everyone to be better. You can certainly appreciate that. “
And with almost four weeks to go to Week 1, Rauscher’s main priority is finding the five starters along the offensive line, as well as the saves that will be on the roster.
Rashod Hill (left tackle), Cleveland (right guard), Bradbury (center) and O’Neill (right tackle) would start today. (Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw has been hampered by injuries so far in the camp).
Udoh and Dozier have split the representatives in the right guard, a battle that will likely continue into the preseason.
“At the moment it’s probably more of a challenge to find the right substitutes, the swing guys on game day,” Zimmer said of what awaits Rauscher. “I feel pretty good with Rasod over there. Darrisaw, if you can’t practice, you can’t play.
“And I love Cleveland and Bradbury, and I love Udoh on guard. A beefy guy,” Zimmer added. “If he’s going to be the keeper, we have to keep giving him reps to make him feel comfortable with whatever is going on in there.”
As usual, the spotlight will be on the Vikings’ offensive line over the next five months. In recent seasons, Minnesota has made the playoffs when this unit has performed well.
Rauscher (and his loud voice) will accept this challenge.
“I think their skills and the way they work together as a unit is what will get us through it,” said Rauscher. “Offensive linemen don’t have individual goals. We have group goals. So we’re strong as a unit; we’re not strong as a particular player.
“If a guy is bad at pass protection then we’re all bad at pass protection. So that’s the truth,” Rasucher added. “We make sure our goals are together. Are we excited about the way some players play? We absolutely are, because it makes the unit better.”