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Monday Morning Mailbag: Vikings Wrap 2022 Offseason

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The questions below have been edited for clarity.

As the OTA's are over, I noticed that the team was wearing regular Viking helmets [during its practices]. What happened to the soft, padded white helmets? Will they be used when full-season on-field training begins?

SKOL,

— Jerry B.

Here's a notable observation from Jerry, who has probably been keeping tabs on the team with the great Vikings Entertainment Network videography and photography from offseason practices. He noted that the Vikings were in their hard-shell Purple that we see them wear in competition instead of some softer rugby style helmets the team used during last offseason's practices.

View photos from the second minicamp practice at the TCO Performance Center.

The use of the padded helmets was a decision former Head Coach Mike Zimmer made to try to promote player safety.

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell structured this year's practices where the offensive and defensive lines were instructed to avoid going full-speed during team periods. He did have the back seven defenders and offensive skill players go full-throttle after emphasizing the importance of taking care of each other.

The NFL this spring passed a resolution requiring the use of Guardian Caps for players at certain positions during the period of time between the start of training camp and the second preseason game.

The Steelers were among the teams to introduce the Guardian Cap during their minicamp last week.

We'll have to wait and see if they come in Purple, but based on league rules, a similar look will be part of 2022 Vikings Training Camp.

I haven't seen the Film Room segments with Pete Bercich on the Vikings app lately. Have the new Vikings management decided to drop that feature? I really enjoy watching the Xs and Os being explained, and Pete does a great job with it. Please bring it back, or something similar.

Regards,

— Michael Schuffenhauer

Michael, thanks for your consumption of Film Room on the Vikings app.

Don't fret. More segments are on the way.

I agree with you that Pete does a great job with these breakdowns by providing information for varying levels of football fans. I'm always for understanding something more, and there are definitely some great takeaways thanks to Pete's talents. His passion for the game still rings true, and the video tools provide some engaging ways to teach the game beyond the chalkboard he implemented as a Vikings assistant.

I've noticed other quarterbacks in the league faking a pass to slow down the pass rush. Is that something that Kirk Cousins could add to his wheelhouse to buy him more time and keep the defenses on their heels?

— Dale Ruschy

Continuing with a bit of Xs and Os, there can be a few times a quarterback could fake a pass: immediately after receiving the snap; while surveying the field and looking off a defender with a pump fake; or during an improvised scramble.

A quick fake can cause a defensive lineman to jump at the wrong time, freeing up a window through which to get the ball. The pump fake while surveying the field could get a player in coverage to bite. A fake on a scramble could force a tackler to falter.

Those quick fakes, however, are only most effective if quick passing is part of a team's playbook. People have to worry about the threat in order to want to try to prevent the bad outcome, right?

Cousins has been highly effective at multiple times in his career when using play-action, especially when paired with an effective run game. He has described it is marrying the play-action passes with what the offense has for run plays and works hard on little details to disguise such things.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2021 season.

For years, I've heard how the Vikings are handicapped by Cousins' big contract. If that's so, how can the Rams be signing so many players to such huge extensions?

— David Winger in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Having covered the Vikings since 2014, I've been able to see the way Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski has helped the team negotiate multiple salary cap obstacles — kind of like an American Ninja Warrior.

I've also shaken my head from time to time when I've heard reports of other teams making big deal after big deal while remaining under the cap. "How is team A signing Players X, Y and Z? Are they not over the cap yet?"

There's multiple forces at work that I'll try to cover without getting into specific dollar amounts for the Vikings or players on other teams (hope you all can understand why it's not the best for an employee of a team to talk about contracts of players on other teams). Overthecap.com is a site that I've referred people to before when they have questions about the NFL salary cap and every team's space.

Here are links to their breakdowns of the Vikings and Rams.

A few surface-level takeaways:

Cousins has the highest cap hit for the Vikings, but that is often the case for established, starting veterans at the position.

Overthecap.com has Stafford as the fourth-highest cap on the Rams in 2022. Stafford's contract certainly helped Los Angeles have the wiggle room to extend Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp last week. Extensions also can stretch out the potential cap hit in a particular year.

According to overthecap.com, 30 of 89 rostered players have cap hits of more than $1 million. There are 39 such Vikings players (also out of 89) with cap hits above $1 million.

The size of Cousins' contract, along with the position he plays, will always attract a lot of attention, but other factors affect a team's salary cap.

Hey Vikings Community,

Big greetings from Germany. You've got a big fan base over here. Do you think the Vikings could come to Germany in the next few years or expand their cooperation here just as Tampa Bay or Kansas City already did?

— Skol, Benedikt

Thanks for the question, Benedikt, and the support you and other fans in Germany have shown for the Vikings.

A total of 18 NFL teams were awarded "International Home Marketing Areas" across eight different countries after submitting proposals last December. The five-year terms went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The following countries and teams were connected officially in the process:

  • Australia: Los Angeles Rams
  • Brazil: Miami Dolphins
  • Canada: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks
  • China: Los Angeles Rams
  • Germany: Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Mexico: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers
  • Spain: Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
  • United Kingdom: Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers

The agreement means Carolina, Kansas City, New England and Tampa Bay will have the lead in marketing efforts within Germany, which includes the Buccaneers playing the Seahawks in Munich on Nov. 13.

To our friends in the United Kingdom and Canada, I'd be on the lookout for more from the Vikings on the horizon.

We definitely want to express our appreciation to fans like Benedikt in Germany and elsewhere along the globe. This expansion of marketing activity should further connect fans to the NFL, which has been several years in the making and included a 1993 exhibition game between the Vikings and Bills in Berlin that was attended by 67,132 fans.

It will be continued again when the Vikings play the Saints in London on Oct. 2.

The Vikings have an all-star roster with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Za'Darius Smith, Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, Eric Kendricks and Irv Smith, for examples. I am concerned that there is a talent drop off in many of the backup players. Coach Kevin O'Connell has emphasized the work on the neck up, which I like, but what can the staff and players do to minimize injuries and keep the all-stars on the field?

— Gill Sorg in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Because the NFL does adhere to a salary cap, all teams are limited to the number of Pro Bowl-caliber players they can sign. Gill rattled off a whole host of players who have at least one Pro Bowl under their belts (all except Irv Smith, Jr., who missed all of his blossoming third pro season).

The Vikings try to implement advanced sports science in order to keep players as healthy as possible, from nutrition to their workout program to athletic training and recovery methods (cryogen chamber, anyone?). The efforts are all about maximizing sports performance while trying to minimize injury.

Hopefully there will be an opportunity to bring a few more details to you through coverage on Vikings.com, but it's always important to not reveal info that could benefit other teams.

I really like the extra-positive attitude the coach has toward the players and their progress. The vibe is cool but aggressive and positive!! I also think this defense could be better than we give credit for if these corners can hold up longer than we think and pass rush and run stuffing do their job, maybe a top 15-10 defense!

— Toby in Alaska

Much of the offseason chatter around the team has centered on the offense, but Toby brings us to the defense.

View photos of the Vikings 2022 coaching staff.

In the practices that were open to media members, the Vikings utilized Peterson and Cameron Dantzler as the outside cornerbacks and Chandon Sullivan at nickel for first-team reps.

Peterson is well-reputed and super chill in any situation. Sullivan has brought a tremendous amount of experience to the slot. Dantzler appears to be benefiting from a fresh start after two seasons of some highs and lows.

Coverage and pass rush go hand-in-hand. Peterson noted that Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell has continued to emphasize "stealing the second from the quarterback."

Forcing a quarterback to hold the football an extra moment — because of sticky coverage or confusion caused by the scheme — can only benefit Vikings pass rushers. Effective pass rushers usually help defensive backs, too.

View the best photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2021 season.

As someone who can appreciate a nice beard, can we get an in-depth play-by-play as to what Harrison Smith's routine is? Man's got a great beard.

— John from Glenwood

We'll close this week on a lighthearted note. If "The Hitman" is still rocking the beard come training camp, we'll try to check with him.

Personally, I think Harrison is just one of those people who can excel at almost anything he tries, whether it's a look, a sport like football or golf, or even when signing his autograph on curved objects.

It's been fun for a lot of Vikings fans to see him spend his entire career here, going from that fresh-faced rookie with the buzz cut to last year when he looked like he could have come from the set of Peaky Blinders.

It's so rare for a player to spend his entire career with one NFL team — and a two-way street — but it's also a real treat when doing so works out for the player and team. He'll now be able to celebrate Father's Day as the dad of a newborn next week.

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