ST. PAUL — Vikings rookie Ezra Cleveland went nearly 10 months between snaps in an official game.

Before making his NFL debut Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, a 40-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the last time Cleveland suited up was as a member of the Boise State Broncos during a Dec. 21 bowl game. His team suffered a 38-7 loss to the Washington Huskies.

Needless to say, the 22-year-old Cleveland has been waiting a long time to get back on the field, though he isn’t currently playing the position he thought he would at the next level.

While the Vikings drafted him presumably to be the left tackle of the future, Cleveland has spent most of his first NFL season working at right guard. That’s where the 6-foot-6, 311-pounder from Tacoma, Wash., made his NFL debut on Sunday.

He was the last high draft pick for the Vikings to finally see the field this fall. He spent the first four games watching from the sidelines, itching to get in. When he did finally find himself in the lineup, he produced mixed results. He did some good things and some bad things, according to coach Mike Zimmer, with some definite room for improvement moving forward.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“It was definitely nice to get back out on the field,” Cleveland said. “Just tried to compete and do what everyone wanted me to do.”

It’s still unclear where the Vikings see Cleveland fitting in long term. Even he isn’t quite sure. Asked whether he still sees himself at left tackle eventually, Cleveland admitted, “I’m not 100% sure.”

“I’ve been in numerous positions here,” he said. “They’re trying to see where I’m comfortable and where I excel and stuff. My goal is to keep everything, take it in stride, and do the best I can at whatever position they put me in.”

The reason Cleveland is working inside at guard rather than outside at tackle has everything to do with his development. It’s not necessarily that the Vikings don’t think he’s capable of protecting a quarterback’s blindside at some point. They just want to see more out of him before they stick him out there against some of the best pass rushers on the planet.

Cleveland hadn’t played guard since high school, so it has helped to have offensive line coach Rick Dennison with him every step of the way, he said.

“He dials in on the little fundamentals that I need with double teams and stuff like that,” Cleveland said. “It’s easy footwork-wise because everything kind of transfers from position to position. It’s just nice to be able to have all those things and have him help me build on them.”

The biggest difference for Cleveland so far has been the timing of everything. While there’s a little more margin for error playing inside and not having to go head-to-head with someone on the outside, the play itself tends to develop a lot quicker on the inside.

That’s something Cleveland continues to take in stride. His main focus is on improving throughout his rookie season, even if he isn’t quite sure what position he’s going to play down the road.

“It’s been a fun experience,” he said. “Just getting those reps at different positions, it’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s nice to have those tools in the tool belt. They are just things I can use in the future. Honestly, wherever the team needs me, I’ll play and try to do my best.”