As the 2016 regular season approaches, a move that would have seemed highly irregular a year ago now seems inevitable. When the 49ers open things up in Week One against the Rams, the quarterback will be Blaine Gabbert not Colin Kaepernick.
A guy who spent six seasons with the 49ers, including a 2015 campaign that resulted in Kaepernick being benched for Gabbert, believes Gabbert will win the job in the first year with Chip Kelly as the head coach.
“To be honest I think that Blaine did a great job last year,” new Vikings guard Alex Boone told me from the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday, “and from what I know of Blaine, I think he’s probably gonna take the reins. I mean I think he’s a good guy, he knows what he’s doing out there, and he just has the support of the group so I think that’s one of the things to look forward to.”
If/when (when) Gabbert starts against the Rams, he won’t have Boone around to protect the quarterback against a chippy L.A. Rams defense that last year infuriated Vikings coach Mike Zimmer with lows hits on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Although Boone declined to call the Rams defense dirty, he vowed to ensure that neither the Rams nor anyone else will be taking cheap shots at his quarterback.
That’s part of the mindset Zimmer wants in his offensive linemen, and the hope is that Boone’s attitude will spread to the rest of the offensive linemen. If it works, the Vikings’ biggest weakness in 2015 will become a strength with Boone, a giant of a guard at 6-8, imposing his will on opponents and his colorful personality on teammates.
Raw and honest but with a positive attitude and a genuine love of the game and an excited anticipation for training camp, Boone could be the difference maker the Vikings need on the field and in the locker room. The new stadium could be a difference maker, too.
“Levi’s [Stadium] was great but I think this place blows it away,” Boone said, who played for the 49ers when their new venue opened two years ago. “I just think the structure alone and the atmosphere it’s gonna bring, it’s gonna be outrageous.”
Outrageous is likely a good word to describe Boone. And if he makes his position group more outrageous and less cerebral, he’ll be worth every penny the Vikings are paying him and a lot more.