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Vikings' Johnson: Easier to play guard than tackle

It's fair to say most football fans could stand to learn more about offensive line play. With increasing numbers drawn to the game through fantasy, these big uglies appear doomed for obscurity.

Rosenthal reviewed Chris Brown's new book The Essential Smart Football on Friday. Among its many valuable essays, it features an informative breakdown of the zone blocking scheme Alex Gibbs made famous. In a few short pages, Brown does a nice job illustrating the complex nature of line play at the pro level. 

The average NFL center is processing and distributing a boatload of information before the snap -- it's the most mentally challenging position on the line.

Left tackle, of course, requires a specific athlete, depending on the scheme -- but what about guard?

We've already heard about Willie Colon moving from tackle to guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Charlie Johnson of the Minnesota Vikings is making a similar switch after the team drafted Matt Kalil to bookend the line. It sounds like Johnson is moving into a role he can handle:

"You could say it's easier to play guard than tackle," Johnson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "A lot of times in pass protection as a guard, you can try to funnel a guy back inside toward the center because the center might be uncovered. He may be free and looking to help where help is needed. That's the biggest change. You can get more help instead of being out on an island."

You don't often hear a player talk about a position switch this way (Colon, by contrast, thanked Pittsburgh for not waiting until training camp to make the change).

Offensive linemen are mischaracterized as giant blocks of human flesh who wouldn't hurt themselves by reading at least one book. Not fair. They're asked to play intelligent football and make hundreds of flash decisions in every game. In Johnson's world, playing guard is just a little less trying on this front.

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