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Monday Morning Mailbag: Depth on Defense, Nickel Corner, More

Posted Mar 25, 2018

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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With the money spent this offseason, do you think it is possible that we will lose a few of our cornerstones of this team because we won't have the cap space to keep them?
-- Mike Workman

At the Combine, GM Rick Spielman said he never operates under the “one player away” philosophy and head coach Mike Zimmer said he believes the Vikings won 40 games the last four seasons because “we have a good team.” This rhetoric suggests to me that there was intentionality behind the money paid to Cousins. Sure, you can’t keep every player you would like to keep, but I do believe the Vikings will be able to retain their true cornerstone-type players.

What exactly does Coach Zimmer mean when he talks about the three technique?
-- Steven Ophus

I defer to coach Zimmer on the specifics, but generally speaking the Vikings have two types of defensive tackles. There’s the nose tackle – aka Linval Joseph. This player is often asked to read the play, control two gaps and occupy blockers. He has strength and can anchor well. Then there’s the three technique – aka Sheldon Richardson. This player is asked to penetrate and disrupt. He is oftentimes slighter in build but is explosive and quick as well as strong. Again, that’s a generalization and a very basic overview of the two positions and a coach or scout could speak with much more specificity.

Free agency has been like a second Christmas for me. So fun! I’m curious, though. In light of free agency and the draft, how would you evaluate the Vikings current depth on defense? Particularly these players: Stephen Weatherly, Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers, Jaleel Johnson and Tashawn Bower.
-- Josh Anderson
River Falls

Those players provide quality depth for the Vikings and they are also still early in their development. I believe they are in a great position early in their careers because they are sitting behind a defense full of returning starters. This means that, as they develop, they can be fed practice and game reps on an as-needed basis. Short of an injury to an established contributor, none of them will be forced into action before they’re ready. At the same time, any of them can be put into action for as much time is deemed suitable. Weatherly is a great example. The Vikings are loaded along the defensive line, so putting Weatherly into a game is great because he is surrounded by great players who can cover up his mistakes and help enhances his strengths.

With the signing of Sheldon Richardson, did the Vikings just win free agency? To me, this is letting everyone know we want to win it all and we want to win it all now! Secondly, we should go offensive line and add defensive line depth with our 1st-round and 2nd-round picks, no?
-- Kyle Alexander

I don’t know about “winning free agency.” I’ve been around the team for 13 seasons and I’ve seen a lot of goals posted around the facility. I’ve never seen “Win Free Agency” listed as a team goal. But doing well in free agency can help the team achieve its goals. There’s no question this organization has displayed the commitment to win now, but that was evident to me before this year’s free agency. As for the draft question, addressing the defensive and/or offensive line in the early rounds would not be a bad idea. There are a total of nine starters in those two position groups, so it’s almost never a bad idea to address those spots early and often in the draft. I wouldn’t pigeonhole the Vikings into just those two spots, though. I’ve never known coach Zimmer to turn down the opportunity to coach up a defensive back with some upside and you know Cousins and Co. would love another skill position player on offense.

Just heard a radio announcer express doubt in Mackensie Alexander at nickel cornerback. If I hadn't seen the development of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, I might have reservations (in Alexander). In Zim I trust at DB development above all. What's your view? Skol!
-- Jeff Kilty

Alexander is still a young player who can get a lot better, he’s playing on a defense with a bunch of rock stars and that will only help his development and, as Jeff pointed out, he’s got a great coach (and staff) around him. It’s certainly far too early to jump ship on him. At the same time, this is a competitive league. If the opposing offense finds a weak link, they will attack it. And there are always young players being added to the roster who are eager to earn reps and opportunity. I expect this position to be a fun one to watch this spring and summer as the Vikings go through their offseason program and head to training camp.

It was definitely bittersweet to see Jerick McKinnon go. I realize this is a business, but I get so emotionally attached to some of these guys. I believe it's because of all the content the Vikings Entertainment Network creates that makes me feel like I really get to know the players as people. Thanks again for everything. This is the most invested I've been in an off season and I think it's because you guys just keep pumping out the content. Skol
-- Mitch Cave
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

We are glad you enjoy and take in the content, Mitch. Thank you! I must also say, though, that a big reason why fans get attached to players like Stefon Diggs, McKinnon, Xavier Rhodes, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, etc. is because they are great people who clearly love playing the game. Fans are drawn to players like that, so the players deserve the credit as does the Vikings front office for finding those players and bringing them into the program.