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Monday Morning Mailbag: How Do Vikings Stack Up vs. NFC North Foes?

Posted Jul 9, 2017

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Our defense is solid, but how much do you think our offense can improve over last season’s? And how many wins do you think it could add to our overall record?
-- Scott
Southern California

Ultimately, increasing the win total will not be a matter of improving the offense. It’s about executing in crucial situations. The Vikings were 2-4 last season in games decided by one possession. They must be better on all three sides of the ball in those late-game situations to attain their goals.

With that being said, there’s plenty of reason to forecast improvement for the offense and to think that improvement could be significant. The signing of two new starting offensive tackles, the addition of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield and a full offseason for Sam Bradford in the familiar Pat Shurmur system are chief among the reasons to expect substantial offensive improvement. The even better news is that with the defense as good as it is, there may not need to be that much improvement to generate an increase in wins. Last season, the Vikings 20.4 points per game ranked 23rd, but they but they allowed more than 20 points just six times last season and they won seven of nine games in which they got to that 20-point threshold.

I cannot help but wish the Vikings will consider signing Darrrelle Revis. This guy is highly skilled and could help from a few positions. He also could help with the development of Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. Additionally, I will continue to beat the drum for Anquan Boldin because he also is a proven winner and his red zone skills could make a huge difference in a close game. We have a tough schedule and both of these guys could put us over the top! I look forward to your response.
-- Paul

I’ve always been fond of the idea of adding Boldin, too. I love his competitiveness. And there is certainly value to bringing veterans into the mix to help mold younger players. But what you also have to consider with the signing of veterans such as Boldin or Revis is how that can actually stunt the development of younger players. If you add Boldin, as an example, will that take away playing time from Laquon Treadwell and subsequently inhibit his ability to properly develop? You can argue it would. The same can be said for the effect on Alexander if you add Revis. These are all things NFL decision makers are constantly weighing in their minds and their offices, even during the dog days of summer when the NFL news cycle is slow.

Knowing that winning games within the NFC and, more importantly, the NFC North, is essential to making the playoffs, how do you feel the Vikings match up against our biggest foes (Bears, Lions, Packers) in 2017? Love the Vikings content, helps keep me connected during a very long offseason in the desert. Skol!
-- Chris D.
Cave Creek AZ

It’s interesting to note that when you look at the other teams in the NFC North, you see quarterback-dominated squads. The Bears just devoted a boatload of free agent money and the No. 2 overall pick to the quarterback position, the Lions have Matthew Stafford and are likely to extend his contract soon and the Packers have one of the best passers in the League. And then you have the Vikings, with one of the NFL’s best defenses and a seemingly renewed and reenergized running game with the additions of Cook and Murray at running back and Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers along the offensive line. Obviously Bradford, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen are no slouches, but you can’t help but find curious the dichotomy between how the Vikings are constructed to wins games and how the other three teams are trying to win games.

Coach Zimmer has commented on how free agents typically improve significantly in their second year, citing Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn as examples. With that in mind, what do you expect from Alex Boone this year? I recognize his play may improve for a different reason – if the play at left tackle is better, it also would help him – but separate this out if you can. (And I'm not saying he was bad last year - but I think he can be better).
-- Jill McCarthy

When Boone was signed, Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator. Now, Boone is playing for a new offensive coordinator, and even though he has the same position coach (Tony Sparano), you can’t help but cede that some important parts of the job have changed with a new play caller (and designer) at the helm. The advantage Boone will have, though, is that Shurmur’s system isn’t as new as it might seem. Turner’s mid-season resignation gave Shurmur nearly half a season to slowly work in some of his own flavor, and now the offense has had the entire offseason program to fully implement Shurmur’s scheme. They should all hit the practice fields in Mankato in full stride, and that should help Boone fulfill Zimmer’s sophomore free agent year theory in much the same way Munnerlyn and Joseph did.

How are the undrafted offensive linemen doing? Is there anyone turning heads who has a real chance to make the opening-day roster? Or too soon to tell?
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

I’d love to unleash a hot take here about an offensive linemen no one has heard of who has a shot to make the roster as the swing tackle. But let’s wait until we get a couple weeks into padded practices in training camp before we levy any major opinions in that area.

Now that Chad Greenway has retired, do you think Anthony Barr can take over the role as the leader of the team? If not Anthony Barr, who do you think will be our next leader?
-- Jan Andrin
Switzerland

Barr can certainly continue to hone his skills as a veteran leader on the team, but I would point to a couple of longer-tenured defenders, such as Harrison Smith and Linval Joseph, as team leaders before I would tap on Barr for that role. That’s no slight on Barr because I believe he has those traits and intangibles, too, but I also know the level of respect Joseph and Smith command in the locker room.