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Monday Morning Mailbag: Padded Practices and Cousins' Red-Zone Ability

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

When do pads come on for the team? Is there going to be real practice soon?

— Jim Jenkins

TODAY! (Sorry for the excitement, but Jim's question couldn't be more timely).

The team has had a longer ramp-up period than in recent years with more of a focus on strength and conditioning and OTA-type practices. But that all changes today.

And, in more exciting news, fans can get an inside look this afternoon.

Here's an update from Craig Peters of of what fans can expect for Monday's simulcast:

Monday's practice will be the first full-pads session by the full team of 2020, and it will be simulcast, beginning at 2:15 p.m. (CT) with a livestream on Vikings digital and social platforms (YouTube, Facebook and Twitter), the Vikings mobile and Vikings Now Connected TV apps, as well as broadcast on FOX 9, KFAN 100.3-FM and the Vikings Radio Network.

"Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen will be joined by Vikings Radio Network analysts Pete Bercich, Ben Leber and Greg Coleman during the simulcast. They will break down camp position battles and provide a look-ahead for the 2020 season.

More information on the simulcast can be found here.

Hi Eric. Would you say that the Vikings defense is ahead of the offense, or the other way around? I know the offense is pretty much intact except for some O-line tweaking, but the defense could surprise a lot of people. Your thoughts.

— Nick

Well, for the first time in the Mike Zimmer era, the offense has actually started training camp ahead of the defense. With so much continuity on defense over the past five seasons, training camp was usually seen as a chance for that veteran group to add elements to their game and not necessarily learn about the new faces on the unit.

This year, as you mentioned, it's the offense that is in that boat. Sure, there are a few new faces, but there's a chance that the Vikings open Week 1 plenty of familiar faces.

Let's envision Minnesota trots out "22 personnel" (2 running backs, 2 tight ends and a wide receiver) on play No. 1 against the Packers. If Pat Elflein and Dakota Dozier are our hypothetical guards, that means every offensive lineman was on the 2019 roster. The same goes for Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Jr., and Adam Thielen. That's continuity at its finest.

The expectation for the offense — and everyone from coaches and players have said this — is that they start fast and take another step forward in 2020.

As for the defense, there could be five new starters (three cornerbacks, a defensive tackle and a defensive end). There are plenty of veterans in the starting lineup, but that entire group will likely use camp to try and get on the same page.

But, as I wrote last week, don't think that a new-look defense suddenly has lower expectations.

Long wait for football. One question, it's third-and-long and Cousins is sacked in the red zone. What can he do to change this out come? Thanks.

— Steve from Woodbury

Yes, it has been a long wait, but hopefully you're excited by the above news. Onto your question…

Here were Cousins' stats inside the opponent's 20-yard line in 2019: Completed 30 of 51 passes for 187 yards with 16 touchdowns, an interception, four sacks and a rating of 97.8.

Overall, I think Kirk was pretty efficient in the red zone, minus the rare mistake of an interception in Week 2 at Lambeau Field. He took four sacks, but that's probably a combination of the opposing defense, the Vikings offensive line and Cousins himself.

You know what 3rd-down play in the red zone does come to mind for me when I think about Kirk?

The one in overtime to Kyle Rudolph on the road against New Orleans in the playoffs. Ball game.

Anything on Dalvin Cook's contract?

— Warren W.

No update on that front of late, but Dalvin himself addressed that topic Friday when he spoke with the Twin Cities media.

Here is what he said:

"I just want to say the Vikings and my agent are working extremely hard and that side's going to take care of whatever they've got to take care of," Cook said. "I'm just continuing to work my tail off and lead a young, hungry group that's ready to go work and get this thing done for Minnesota.

"I love being in Minnesota since I got here," Cook added. "That side's going to take care of that side, and I'm going to take care of my side. I walk in this building with a smile because I love being in Minnesota."

In recent years, the Vikings have typically locked up key players in late July or early August. But because of the pandemic throwing a wrench in everyone's sense of normalcy, and the unknown for what the salary cap looks like in future years, the two sides are still working at it right now.

But Cook said they are both working hard, so that's a positive sign for all involved, as is Dalvin's commitment to his teammates by continuing to practice while negotiations are ongoing.

After listening to our special teams coach, I am more convinced that he is looking for excuses as to why things might fail rather than building a positive outlook why things might advance this year. A lot of potential and talent to work with, and COVID has nothing to do with that. Granted, schedules are different and practices are more limited however all teams are faced with the same situation. No question here but I'm sure you will have a comment. Thanks for the time.

— Steven Raduenz

I appreciate the email, Steven, but think we can agree to disagree on what Vikings STC Marwan Maalouf said last week. This quote below really stood out to me:

"Now we have to adapt just like everybody else. I'm not exactly sure how coach is going to do it, but I'm sure he's going to sprinkle in some full speed and full-contact practices once we start getting this thing going. Now we have to evaluate within our own selves. The phrase is 'iron sharpens iron.' "

I don't think he's making any excuses for the new normal/no preseason games because of COVID. Instead, he understands the reality that all teams face and will prepare Minnesota's ST groups to be at their best for Week 1 and beyond.

And with every team on a seemingly level playing field going into the season, perhaps a play here or there on special teams ends up making a big impact early on in the season? (See: Eric Wilson's blocked punt in Week 1 of 2019).

The Vikings should be well set in the kicking game, as Lindsey Young of wrote last week, with the battery of specialists — Dan Bailey, Britton Colquitt and Austin Cutting — back together again for a second straight season.