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Monday Morning Mailbag: Assessing Young Cornerbacks & a Hall of Fame Debate

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What do you think about our young cornerbacks, and how will they do this season?

— Tayasir Ahmed in Minneapolis

Thanks for starting us off, Tayasir. To me, this is one of the most fascinating position groups to watch in 2020. Let's take a look at the 11 cornerbacks currently on the roster:

Mike Hughes, to me, is a player who has the chance to emerge as a key factor on this defense in 2020. He likely has something to prove, as both of his first two seasons have been cut short by injuries. He has the talent to be a No. 1 corner, and now is his time to prove it.

Holton Hill and Kris Boyd are names to watch as they got some experience as rookies in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and could now challenge for starting spots. Both played well on special teams this past season, and both have the chance to take a step forward on defense this year.

Marcus Sayles is an interesting name, in my opinion. He exceled in the Canadian Football League, and will be given a chance to show his skills in the NFL. Other youngsters such as Mark Fields, Kemon Hall and Nate Meadors could be counted upon to provide depth on special teams and challenge for the final roster spots.

The drafted rookies could all fight for playing time. We'll have a deeper dive on this soon on Vikings.com, but Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand all have the traits and skills that could fit with Mike Zimmer's scheme. Gladney, being a first-rounder, could be thrown into the mix to start right away, either in the slot or on the outside.

Nevelle Clarke was added as an undrafted free agent, but there was some buzz about him when he signed. He played with Hughes in college, so perhaps that helps his transition.

This group is the biggest X-factor for the Vikings heading into 2020. The established veterans are gone, and it's now up to the young guys to step up and play well.

Here's a fun one. Vikings tackles Gary Zimmerman and Ron Yary, guards Randall McDaniel and Steve Hutchinson and center Mick Tingelhoff are all enshrined in Canton. Zimmerman and Yary played left and right tackle, respectively. But both McDaniel and Hutch played left guard. If you lined up that HOF OL as a unit, which guard would you move to right guard? And why? Would the odd pre-snap stance McDaniel used be a factor?

— Jeff Kilty in Sacramento

Love this question, Jeff. The Vikings certainly have a strong history of great offensive linemen, and hopefully the young players on the roster today — Brian O'Neill, Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland — become anchors on the line for years to come. I'm not saying they are going to be Hall of Famers, but they could be the building blocks for the line for the next decade or so.

As for your question, I'd move Hutch to right guard. Why? Because I don't think you can move McDaniel, a man who started 188 games, made 11 Pro Bowls and was a seven-time All-Pro in Purple. Hutch was a stellar left guard in his own right, but since his Vikings career was shorter than McDaniel, he can slide to the right. And no, the pre-snap stance for McDaniel wouldn't bother me. Whatever did he worked just fine.

Side note: McDaniel explained the origin of his stance as part of a tribute to Vikings original athletic trainer Fred Zamberletti in 2018.

The line of Zimmerman, McDaniel, Tingelhoff, Hutchinson and Yary would be a nightmare for an opposing defense. I can easily imagine the Vikings pounding the ball on the ground all game long. Imagine if Adrian Peterson ran behind this line? Or if Fran Tarkenton was under center? And you know that line would give any QB time to look for Randy Moss, Cris Carter or Steve Jordan down the field.

One can dream, right?

Take a Next Gen Stats look at the Vikings opponents in 2020. For more Next Gen Stats, be sure to check out nextgenstats.nfl.com.

The really good players know how to feel or sense opportunity to succeed. The unusual conditions that teams have to prepare and train for amounts to low-hanging fruit if the Vikings make sure they are ready to roll. It's right there for the Vikings!

— Sandy Hawkins

I like your optimism! Yes, the world is different as we normally know it right now, as is what a Vikings offseason usually looks like. Who knows what will happen this fall, but why not believe the Vikings can make a deep run?

Here is what Coach Zimmer said last week about what he tells his players during these uncertain times:

"I just tell them, 'The better we prepare ourselves to understand what we may have to go through, and what we have to do initially, especially early, it may end up giving us an advantage in how we can go out and go play.' "

It's up to the Vikings coaches and players to be ready to go if/when they get the call for training camp, the season, or whatever. You can bet Zimmer, a coach who doesn't get meddled in distractions, won't let his players use the pandemic as one, either.

Greetings from WA. I've enjoyed watching the Coach Zim's home interviews and admire his interior decorating skills! Who manufactures that wonderful wingback chair he sits in? Suffering in Seasquawk Land.

— Mark

Congrats, Mark, this is one of the most interesting questions I've ever gotten here. I'm not sure who Zimmer's interior decorator was. Maybe him, maybe his daughters, or perhaps he hired someone. Either way, there is no question that he has quite the place at his ranch in Kentucky, that chair included.

Heck, even Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter is jealous of Zimmer's layout at the ranch.

By the way, if you want an inside look at what Zimmer's days are like at the ranch, click here.

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