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Lunchbreak: Defense is Strong Point for Vikings Entering OTAs

With the Vikings opening up Organized Team Activities on Tuesday morning, there was a feeling that the 2017 season is getting closer.

Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY took a look at a few storylines in Minnesota and what he has his eye on as the Vikings inch toward training camp in July.

Pelissero said the Vikings will be anchored by their defense, a unit that ranked third in the league in 2016 by allowing 314.9 yards per game. Minnesota was sixth in points allowed at 19.2.

Pelissero wrote:

The talent under age 30 is impressive, led by defensive end Everson Griffen, nose tackle Linval Joseph, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and linebacker Eric Kendricks. This was the year coach Mike Zimmer believed that group would hit its stride. If that happens, watch out.

Pelissero also noted that the Vikings additions on their offensive line should help the offense have more success in 2017.

He wrote that an influx of talent and new faces could work out well for Minnesota. 

That was a constant battle in 2016 as injuries decimated the offensive line. The Vikings used a lot of resources there in free agency (left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers) and the draft (third-round pick Pat Elflein, a former Ohio State standout who will get a shot to start at center, and Danny Isidora, a fifth-rounder from Miami who could factor at right guard). Veteran left guard Alex Boone may be the only starter who returns at the same spot.

The Vikings used eight different starting offensive line combinations and had five different players line up at left tackle.

MMQB: Vikings running back battle worth watching

The Vikings running back group has a fee fresh faces this year, as Minnesota added running back Latavius Murray in free agency and took Dalvin Cook in the second round of last month's draft.

The duo will team up with Jerick McKinnon, who returns after leading Minnesota in rushing in 2016.

Albert Breer of Monday Morning Quarterback recently named his top position battles to watch across the NFL as OTAs get going, and included the Vikings on the list. 

Breer said there will be a spotlight on who carries the ball for the Vikings.

Ex-Raider*Latavius Murray is on the books for more than $4 million this year, and Minnesota traded up in the second round for Florida State's Dalvin Cook. Obviously, there are big shoes to fill here, but the versatility of both could help open up coordinator Pat Shurmur's offense, and make protecting Sam Bradford a little easier on the line.

Murray ran for 12 touchdowns last season, Cook set Florida State's career rushing record and McKinnon had 539 rushing yards in 2016.

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