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Lunchbreak: Vikings Linebackers, Cornerbacks Could Thrive in 2020

A few weeks ago, ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin took a look at the Vikings offense and determined which position groups would be better, worse or the same in 2020 as they were in 2019.

Cronin did the same for Minnesota's defense on Monday, and opined on how the Vikings defensive line, linebackers, cornerback and safeties would fare this season compared to last year.

Cronin picked two of the four units to improve, noting she has high expectations for the Vikings linebackers and cornerbacks.

She wrote that the returning group of Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson and Cameron Smith is among the best in the league, and that rookies such as Troy Dye could also make an impact.

No big losses, two Pro Bowlers and a promising rookie. The Vikings linebackers could very well end up the strength of this team in 2020. Continuity is key at this position.

All-Pro Kendricks is coming off his best season (12 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 4 tackles for loss) and Barr is still a consistent pass-rushing threat and is one of the league's better off-ball linebackers. Wilson has already surpassed Gedeon as the third linebacker in the base 4-3 formation and has been all over the place from pass coverage to special teams.

The Vikings drafted Dye because they were intrigued by his coverage skills and athleticism to get downhill quickly. He may end up following Barr's trajectory given the similarities with their size and skill sets.

The Vikings endured plenty of roster turnover at cornerback, but Cronin noted that the young group of starters in the mix — Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler — have plenty of talent.

Cronin wrote:

Minnesota's pass defense ranked 15th in 2019 and gave up more than 230 yards per game after ranking third in 2018 and second in 2017. Something had to change.

The Vikings now have a host of young cornerbacks and the luxury of time to develop them into starters, a course that has typically taken three years in [Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer's defense. Hughes' aptitude for the nickel position is huge and could allow the Vikings to get away with not signing a veteran cornerback in camp if Gladney, Hill or Dantzler are ready to assume starting roles on the outside.

Either way, depth is no longer an issue at corner. The Vikings are starting from scratch and will have new starters at every spot. This unit won't resemble a finished product in 2020, but is in good shape for the future.

Cronin opined that Minnesota's safeties group, led by Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, will be the same in 2020, but that group played at a high level in 2019.

View photos of Vikings players who participated in workouts at TCO Performance Center.

Cronin does expect the Vikings defensive line to take a step back in 2020. That group lost notable names such as Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen, and offseason free-agent addition Michael Pierce decided to opt out of the 2020 season last week for health reasons.

She noted that Ifeadi Odenigbo could be a name to watch in 2020, while a host of players will have to step up and fill Pierce's void at defensive tackle.

Cronin full breakdown can be found here.

1998 Vikings ranked as franchise's best in Super Bowl era

Even 20-plus years later, the 1998 Vikings remain one of the most exciting and beloved teams in franchise history.

They are also the best team the organization has fielded, according to Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports.

DeArdo recently compiled each franchise's best team in the Super Bowl era and went with the squad that featured a quartet of Hall of Famers in Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel and John Randle.

DeArdo wrote:

With respect to Bud Grant's four Super Bowl teams, the '98 Vikings are the most dominant team in franchise history. They are also arguably the greatest NFL team that didn't reach the Super Bowl. Led by Hall of Fame receivers Randy Moss (that year's Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Cris Carter, All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, Hall of Fame defensive end John Randle, and an offensive line that featured three Pro Bowlers, the Vikings lost one game (27-24 to the Buccaneers in Week 9) during the regular season. Minnesota, which scored a then-NFL record 556 points during the regular season, ran away from the Cardinals in the divisional round before hosting the Falcons in the NFC title game.

And while the Vikings did not advance to the Super Bowl that season, they provided some of the most thrilling moments in team history.

Minnesota went 15-1 in the regular season and had an average margin of victory of 16.3 points. put together a comprehensive look at the team for the 20-year anniversary in 2018.