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Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag, which is presented by FedEx. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.
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The NFL season is long, spanning more than five months. What's Coach O'Connell's approach to ensuring the Vikes are healthy in December, January and February?
— Rudy in Fredericksburg, Virginia
We'll start this week with the end goal for every team: playing in February, an honor only experienced by two teams each season, including the Rams with Kevin O'Connell as their offensive coordinator last season.
O'Connell hired Tyler Williams, whom he worked with in Los Angeles, on March 9 to be Minnesota's executive director of player health and performance. Williams oversees the strength and conditioning program led by Josh Hingst, as well as the athletic training department now led by Uriah Myrie. Hingst was part of Philadelphia's run to Super Bowl LII, by the way.
The Rams closed the 2021 season strong, going undefeated in December and winning their first of two games in January before falling in the finale to San Francisco. Los Angeles cruised against Arizona in the Wild Card and had enough to win three consecutive three-point games to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
One example of O'Connell keeping in mind the length of the season is the decision to not take the bye in the week immediately following the Vikings-Saints Week 4 game in London. Only five of the 60 participating teams in London Games since 2007 have not had a bye the following week. Instead, Minnesota will host Chicago. O'Connell said during his rookie minicamp media availability that the Vikings requested a home game in Week 5.
"I know internally here we had a lot of discussions about whether we would request [a different bye] or not from the league," O'Connell said. "Nowadays, knowing where we want to go with this football team, to think about a Week 5 bye, although it might help in the short term coming off a trip like that, playing 13 games in a row before possibly playing some bonus games on top of that, that can be taxing, that can be really taxing on these guys.
"We'll do a great job with our sports performance group and listening to the science on how we can make our guys feel great for that game but then obviously make sure that our players are feeling great for that following week's home game," O'Connell added.
View photos of the Vikings 2022 coaching staff.
O'Connell said he likes the timing of Minnesota's Week 7 bye when paired with the minibye that will result from hosting the Patriots on Thanksgiving Night. The Vikings will have six games in the regular season after O'Connell coaches against the team that drafted him.
Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center features numerous amenities to help Williams and Co. prepare for the grind ahead and the week-to-week recovery efforts to be at their best for every game day.
With the schedule this year, is it possible for the Vikings to go 12 and 5 and win their division?
There's a couple of factors. First, the Vikings need to make a four-game improvement over last season. Based on 2021 results, Minnesota's strength of schedule ranks 20th, but every season is different in the NFL.
Six of the eight division winners last season won 12 or more games. The other two division champs were the Bills (11) and Bengals (10). Twelve of the 14 playoff teams won at least 10 games.
The Packers have won 13 in each of the past three seasons, going 11-1 against the Bears and Lions in that stretch. The lone loss was in the 2021 finale when Aaron Rodgers played partially because the game didn't affect Green Bay's status as the NFC's top seed.
Minnesota, which is 8-4 against those foes in the past three seasons, hasn't been able to count on any help from Chicago or Detroit.
All that to say that 12 wins is a lofty goal, and it would almost certainly mean a return to the postseason, but it may not come with a division crown.
View photos of the Vikings 2022 schedule at U.S. Bank Stadium and on the road.
I'm a Vikings fan since 2016 and will be watching a game in Minneapolis in the near future. I have a question for all players. How are they feeling for this specific season? We know that with the changes there are a lot of different expectations and feelings, but beyond those changes, what are their expectations at this point?
— Saymon (Simon) Meura in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
Hello in the Southern Hemisphere. Glad that you will be venturing to the North for a game.
I'd say expectations — and energy levels — are high across all position groups.
Eric Kendricks spoke to media members last week and summed up his perspective that responsibility for having better results is shared between coaches and players.
"It's on us as well. We want to win a championship. We want to win games. We want to do things right. It's not just only on the coaches," Kendricks said. "We've got to step up as leaders. I'm including myself in that. I've got to step up in ways that I can. I've got to be a leader when they least expect. Whether that's how I work, maybe me being verbal, maybe taking somebody to the side. I've got to step up my game as a leader for sure."
I expect big things this year. We have a very young line. … Coach Chris Kuper worked under Mike Munchak, who is one of the best. O'Connell's offensive line in Los Angeles was pretty good. I am sure he picked up a few things. The battles in camp will be good. Let's hope we stay healthy. That is a big key for O-lines.
— Gerald Goblirsch
The last few years we've heard such good things about Brian O'Neill. I'm wondering if that is because the rest of the O-line … or is he really that good? Reason for the question is because I just saw PFF rank the tackles, and he was ranked 26*th*. Are they way off the mark, or have we been overrating him?
— Brian Tracy
Would it really be a Vikings Mailbag without questions and comments about the offensive line?
We'll start with Gerald's thoughts. The Vikings don't wear pads during Organized Team Activity practices but the offensive line is able to work on its technique and movement for the types of plays O'Connell plans to call. Kuper brings the experience of having started 79 of the 90 regular-season games he played for Denver from 2006-13, as well as six years of being an assistant with the Dolphins (2016-18) and Broncos (2019-21).
Side note: I had the opportunity to cover Munchak as a position coach in 2010 and head coach of the Titans from 2011-13. He's a great coach and person, and I'm not alone in thinking that.
Hopefully Kuper can establish some continuity for the position group that has been led by multiple voices in recent seasons.
Since the tragic passing of Tony Sparano in 2018, Minnesota has called upon Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko that season, Rick Dennison (2019-20) and Phil Rauscher (2021). Rauscher was promoted in 2021 when Dennison worked remotely as an advisor because of COVID-19 protocols.
Which leads me to O'Neill, who was drafted in the second round in 2018. Kuper is his sixth position coach, and Wes Phillips is his fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons. That's a lot to ask of a young player, but O'Neill has handled it, and he's received some high respect from opponents who have gone against him.
Brian Tracy's question is referencing this ranking by PFF's Ben Linsey, which is "based primarily on three-year PFF grade and PFF win above replacement results with adjustments made to account for situation and players trending up or down."
View photos from the Vikings third OTA practice, which took place on May 18 at the TCO Performance Center.
O'Neill has been a bright spot in an oft-criticized Vikings offensive line. His athleticism is put to use in Minnesota's outside zone-dominant rushing attack, and he's done a good job of limiting the hits on Kirk Cousins. O'Neill has allowed just 15 combined sacks and hits from 1,699 pass-blocking snaps at tackle over the past three seasons. That rate of 113 snaps per knockdown ranks seventh among 49 tackles with at least 1,000 pass-blocking snaps since 2019.
PFF provides a significant amount of discussion topics, and there are probably varying opinions about all players.
I can reiterate that O'Connell has expressed his belief in O'Neill and second-year left tackle Christian Darrisaw as building blocks for the unit.
If the Lions trade the 49ers for a second round draft pick for Jimmy Garoppolo what would that to the NFC North?
— Lorenzo Wright
Now that the draft is over, the Vikings still have enough effective cap space to sign another mid-level free agent. What are some realistic options for them? Some of my possibilities are Akiem Hicks, J.C. Tretter, and Rob Gronkowski on 1-2 year deals.
— Josiah Jochims
I appreciate these questions from Lorenzo and Josiah, but it's not really our place to discuss what other teams might do.
Any trade involving a quarterback knocks over a few dominoes along the way because of how important that position is in football.
The Vikings don't usually comment on cap space or potential free agents, even after the first wave. There's still a lot of recognizable names on the market. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal published this ranking, which has been updated as players have re-signed or joined new teams.
Gronk, Hicks and Tretter are mentioned by Rosenthal as some of the best players still available.
There's a lot of talk about injury history for Andrew Booth, Jr. How many games did he miss because of injury?
— Ted Pace
Booth's toughness is one of the attributes the Vikings liked the best about the former Clemson cornerback who played in 35 games for the Tigers. Booth started 11 of a possible 13 games last season.
He missed a game at Syracuse on Oct. 15 and left the Nov. 6 game against Louisville due to injury. He also didn't play against Connecticut on Nov. 13. Booth, however, played the final two games of the regular season and in Clemson's bowl game against Iowa State before undergoing surgery.
He is on the mend and will be ramped up as time progresses, but the Vikings were willing to trade up to get him at No. 42 because of the way they view his talent and potential.
I can't wait to see Ty Chandler show up this season! I really think he has a good chance of making the roster and making an impact! This guy is going to be a perfect fit in the offense we're trying to get going.
— Corey Alexander in Richmond, Virginia
We haven't seen too much of the run game so far in OTA practices or at the rookie minicamp, but count me interested in seeing what Chandler has to offer to a strong group of Vikings running backs.
O'Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah were excited that Chandler was on the board in the fifth round.
In the "Introducing" video feature by Vikings Entertainment Network, O'Connell is heard asking a personnel assistant to add Chandler to the queue of the electronic draft board, "Why don't you throw Ty Chandler in there?"
O'Connell also asks Adofo-Mensah, "You still like Ty Chandler, right?"
Adofo-Mensah responds: "Still love, love."
Assistant Director of College Scouting Pat Roberts told us that North Carolina coaches complimented Chandler for transitioning better than any transfer they've had there. That bodes well for a young player looking to make his mark with an NFL team.