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Monday Morning Mailbag: Luxuries at Linebacker

Posted Aug 31, 2015

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Would you say we have a fairly deep LB corps? It seems like we have a bunch of specialists and seems like Barr is the all-around player you like to have as a wild card in a Zimmer defense.
-- Chris L.

Yes, I would point to LB as one of the deepest positions on the team, and the good news is that depth is comprised of a bunch of young and versatile players who are still being molded by head coach Mike Zimmer and his defensive staff. Look at Gerald Hodges, for example. No one was talking about him as a starting Mike LB in the base defense back when the team opened the offseason program, yet he was in that position Saturday night against Dallas and could be the starter Week 1 in San Francisco. Barr is an outside LB who can play in a stacked position as well as pressure off the edge as a standup rusher or with his hand in the grass. Audie Cole has played all three positions in his career. As a rookie, Kendricks could be a starting nickel LB and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get some time in base defense this season, too. And all of this isn’t even to mention the growth of Brandon Watts in Year 2, how Brian Peters and seventh-round draft pick Edmond Robinson have come on, and the contributions Michael Mauti can provide on special teams as well as defense.

Will the Vikings pursue a veteran lineman? If we did pursue that avenue, do you think the Vikings would try to make a trade?
-- David D.
Sioux Falls, Sd.

I never rule anything out, especially with wheelin’ dealin’ Rick Spielman. If the Vikings add an offensive lineman to the roster, though, I see it being by signing someone who was cut from another team before I see it coming via trade.

I’d love seeing the Vikings keep all of their TEs. Rudolph is a stud. Ellison is talented and versatile. Ford is a tough, physical player. Pruitt is a match-up beast waiting to happen.
-- Gary G.

Unfortunately, the Vikings already had to let go one of their TEs – Brandon Bostick. But I can see the rest of the group sticking around as part of the 53-man roster because of the very reasons Gary mentions above. Another reason to keep them all is to protect against injury, especially since all three are currently or have recently had to deal with injuries. This is a deep position, and whenever you have depth at a position I think it’s important to maintain it.

I understand that all rookies and international players are eligible for the practice squad, but is anyone else? Who on our roster other than the rookies are eligible for the PS?
-- Ken Aull

A player is eligible for the Practice Squad if he has fewer than three practice squad seasons (a PS season = on the PS for at least six weeks) and one of the two following apply to him – the player does not have an accrued season of credit or the player does have an accrued season but he was on the 46-player active roster for fewer nine regular season games during each accrued season. A team can have 10 such PS players at any time.

There is also a new Practice Squad exception rule of which a team may have two players. The exception is for players who do not have more than two accrued seasons and who have fewer than three practice squad seasons.

Do you think the Vikings are missing a speed rusher at defensive end? Everson Griffen gets a lot of sacks, but does he have the speed to be feared like a top tier 4-3 defensive end on 3rd down and long?
--Zach C.
Minneapolis, MN

I have no reservations about any part of the Vikings pass rush or really any part of the defensive line, especially if DT Shamar Stephen can get healthy and back to action soon. The defensive line has looked dominant every step of the way since the offseason program opened and I thought they outplayed a very good Cowboys offensive line on Saturday night. What gives this group an extra edge is its depth. Tom Johnson, who had a career-high 6.5 sacks last season and has 2.0 this preseason, and Stephen provide depth in the middle and then there are three DEs – Scott Crichton, Danielle Hunter and Justin Trattou – who are battling to provide depth behind Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. This is a very strong group.

I haven't heard much about running back DuJuan Harris. He seemed to look good in the preseason games. What have you seen and do you think he has any chance of making the team? We have quite a few backs in front of him.
-- Ray B.
Pelican Rapids, MN

Running back is another point of strength on the Vikings roster. Adrian Peterson leads the charge, but Jerick McKinnon can be a weapon and Matt Asiata proved last year he can step up to the plate and produce when asked. If the Vikings choose to keep more than three backs, then the release of Joe Banyard on Sunday leaves Harris to compete with Dominique Williams for that spot. Working in Harris’ favor is experience (five seasons) and his ability to contribute in multiple phases on special teams.