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Monday Morning Mailbag: Floyd's Fit, 'Most Improved' Candidates, More

Posted May 15, 2017

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What do you think a player like Michael Floyd brings to the table for the Vikings offense? Is he more of a 'stretch the field' type of player, or a bigger 'contested catch' type of player?
-- Zach Carter
Los Angeles, CA

At 6-2, 220 pounds, Floyd is a big-bodied target in the passing game but I wouldn’t pigeon hole him as one type of receiver. He’s always struck me as a complete receiver who is more physical than most receivers, and he can use that physicality in going up for contested catches or across the middle but also with run blocking and blocking downfield for other receivers. Another quality he brings to the table is experience, including big-game experience. Floyd has already played in six postseason games over his first five seasons.

Which rookie, other than Dalvin Cook, will you be keeping an eye on all offseason and preseason?
-- Ian Smith
Strasburg, VA

I’m going to cheat and throw two names into this answer, and they are receivers Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley. Even with the Floyd signing and several veterans coming back from last year’s squad, I believe there is room for at least one of these rookies on the 53-man roster, especially if both or either can establish a role on special teams. Obviously the kickoff return role is open with Cordarrelle Patterson gone, but Patterson proved last year and Sherels has been showing us for a while that returners can also be used as gunners and in other special teams roles. If Adams and/or Coley can carve out a role or two on special teams, they will be players to watch this summer.

We see the action of rookie minicamp. My question concerns the classroom aspect we don't see. During this time, could you give us some insight into how the rookies are able to master NFL level of play? I'm assuming this ability factors into the competition for making the team.
-- Charles Daniel
Tennessee

There’s no question the mental aspect of the game is vital for all players, but especially for rookies trying to get their foot in the door during the lead up to their first season. There really is no excuse, though, for rookies not being up to snuff in this area because there is plenty of meeting time during the day and down time once the day is over for them to be in their playbook studying. Also, the coaches are at Winter Park seemingly all hours of the day ready at a moment’s notice to answer questions and clarify details to help the players in this regard. Knowing your assignment is something that takes no talent at all, therefore it is something that all players cannot afford to fall short on when they are trying to make the team or hold onto their roster spot.

Do you have any opinions on whom you think will be the most improved from last year with an offseason under their belt? Offensive and Defense?
-- Patrick Fallon
Phoenix, AZ

I don’t have any strong opinions on this, yet. There will come a time, though, this offseason where it could become apparent who will get a chance to step up and parlay marked improvement from last year into a more prominent role. Two players I will mark as ones to watch in this regard are cornerback Mack Alexander and offensive tackle Rashod Hill. Both saw limited action a year ago, particularly Hill because he was acquired midseason, but both have desirable traits for their position and both should have ample opportunity between now and the beginning of the regular season to show coaches they deserve a chance to play.

What's up with the lack of love from some NFL analysts about how the Vikings will fare this season? Ben Goessling from ESPN has us going 8-8 and Gil Brandt from NFL.com thinks that the only team to challenge the Packers will be the Lions for the division title. Last season we were the pick by some prominent sports figures (before all of the injuries) to go to the Super Bowl. With an improved offense and top 5 defense, why aren't we being considered as a contender this year?
-- Rizwan Majeed
Wayne, NJ

A couple things to consider here. First, the Vikings are coming off an 8-8 season in which they did not finish the season strongly and they are playing in a division that features Aaron Rodgers, so that right there is enough to scare off most prognosticators. Secondly, most would’ve agreed after the 2016 season that offensive line was an area the Vikings needed to improve in the offseason. And the Vikings did that. They signed two starting offensive tackles and they drafted Pat Elflein in the third round. But signing and drafting offensive linemen is not splashy and therefore doesn’t naturally conjure up hype, so that is another reason why some experts may gloss over the Vikings when predicting what will happen in 2017. I see it all as good news, though. Teams would much rather be flying under the radar than be in the limelight from the start, just as the Vikings were in 2015  when they snuck up on everyone and went 11-5 along the way to winning the NFC North.

Do you think Danny Isidora, Aviante Collins or TJ Clemmings actually have a good chance of being a surprise starter for us!
-- Frank Cooper

I don’t know that I’d say a good chance for any of them because none of them are penciled in as starters at this time, but there’s no question the Vikings are looking for drastic improvement along the offensive line and that will obviously lead to some changes and perhaps some surprises. So I wouldn’t count any of them out just yet.