vikings.com's Mike Wobschall answers your questions each week in the Monday Morning Mailbag—except when **special guests** like Chad Greenway take charge. @Wobby follows each "MMM" with the Pick 6 video mailbag on Tuesdays.
With six days left in the countdown to camp, we thought we'd list six questions facing the Vikings at the onset of 2015 training camp.
Is there enough pigskin to go around?
The return of Adrian Peterson to the Vikings in 2015 is one of the reasons many analysts are predicting good things for the Vikings this season. There could be a lot worse offensive series than "Adrian left, Adrian right, Adrian middle" on three straight plays because he's that talented and that much of a handful for opponents to try and stop.
The Vikings, however, will be much more creative than that because of the wits and wisdom of Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, who has previously coached Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and five-time Pro Bowler LaDainian Tomlinson in offenses that also had success in the passing game.
Turner, no doubt, will involve Peterson in every game plan, but he also knows some opponents will be better at defending the run and some will be better at defending the pass. Turner also has confidence in Teddy Bridgewater and a passing game that includes offseason acquisition Mike Wallace and an emerging Charles Johnson, as well as Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright at receiver and a fully-recovered Kyle Rudolph at tight end. Bridgewater showed an ability to spread the ball around and make good decisions with it in his rookie campaign. More familiarity with the system and his options should only enhance that in 2015 and beyond.
Who's a starting guard?
After general continuity for multiple seasons, the injury bug bit the Vikings up front in 2014. Minnesota utilized five different starting combinations on the line, suffering season-ending injuries to RG Brandon Fusco (in September) and RT Phil Loadholt (in November).
Fusco was moved from center John Sullivan's right side to his left during the offseason program, and the Vikings opened their program with rookie T.J. Clemmings at right guard. They also took a look at draft classmate Tyrus Thompson with the ones, despite both playing tackle in college. It remains to be seen if Fusco at LG is how the Vikings will proceed, but they were encouraged at the possibilities of him teaming up with LT Matt Kalil. Minnesota knows quite well what veteran Joe Berger can do at all three interior line positions, but will take a deeper look at Clemmings, Thompson, second-year pro David Yankey, seventh-round pick Austin Shepherd, Bob Vardaro and Isame Faciane at guard during camp.
The general approach could be to identify the best combination of five—Kalil, Sullivan and Loadholt (who was limited this spring and replaced by Mike Harris) are likely to remain — and let them have at it, like in 2012 when no first-teamer missed a start.
Can the Vikings establish depth at defensive end?
Coaches also will keep a watch on the other side of the line of scrimmage where they are looking for depth at defensive end behind Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, who each played more than 900 snaps in 2014. Griffen led the team with 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 70 quarterback hurries, and Robison added 4.5 sacks and 45 hurries. The Vikings, however, got just one other sack from a defensive end, and that was in the season finale by Corey Wootton and his celebratory rendition of "The Robot."
Wootton departed for Detroit this offseason, but the Vikings returned developing players Justin Trattou (who made his way off the practice squad to the 53-man roster last year) and second-year pro Scott Crichton, who impressed teammates and coaches during organized team activities this spring. The Vikings also drafted Danielle Hunter in the third round and B.J. DuBose in the sixth.
Who is manning the "Mike" and how often is he on the field?
The departure of Jasper Brinkley via free agency created an opening for the starting middle "Mike" linebacker spot. The Vikings could be deciding between Audie Cole, who had a great outing in the finale against the Bears, and second-round pick Eric Kendricks.
The pass-prevalent sets with three wide receivers of some teams in the NFL, however, might prompt the Vikings to implement a sub package with the nickel corner replacing a linebacker in the way the Vikings did when Brinkley was lifted in pass-likely situations in 2014.
Which new arrival stands to be the biggest difference maker?
Wallace's speed, smoothness and skill on deep routes, as well as shorter ones, make him a great candidate for this. The Vikings, however, also brought in veterans Shaun Hill and Terence Newman at important positions. Hill is here to backup Bridgewater and provide expertise and support at the sport's most challenging position. Newman has already shown his deep knowledge of the defense that is implemented by Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.
The Vikings also drafted 10 players this spring when General Manager Rick Spielman was scheduled to make six selections but successfully navigated trade waters to land more picks. Cornerback Trae Waynes was selected 11th overall and saw time covering outside and inside receivers, then there's second-rounder Kendricks and other rookies, drafted and undrafted, looking to seize opportunities.
What's the best combination of 53?
This is the ultimate question the Vikings and 31 other teams must answer to best prepare for each season. Limitations on roster size make this a universally important decision.
Multiple factors will shape how the Vikings go from 89 players in July to 53 by Sept. 5. A major part of this is considering that only 46 can be active on game days, adding versatility into consideration of who performed the best.
Sometimes a cut by another team also prompts a change. Minnesota will deeply evaluate its players while remaining cognizant of players that could be available.
Final roster reductions can be full of suspense and drama across the league as a precursor to what should be an exciting season.