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Lunchbreak: Murray, Cook Tabbed as NFC North's Top Newcomers

The Vikings added numerous pieces to their roster over the offseason, ranging from a pair of bookend offensive tackles to depth along the defensive line.

But some think the pair of fresh faces at running back may be Minnesota's best move.

A roundtable of four NFC North writers from ESPN were all asked who they thought the best newcomers to the division were, and a pair of them went with the combination of Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook.

Rob Demovsky, who covers the Packers, wrote:

The Minnesota Vikings' running back. Or I should say running backs. Latavius Murray proved in Oakland that he can be a workhorse with 461 carries over the past two seasons. Add second-round pick Dalvin Cook -- one of the top running backs in the draft -- and the Vikings might have replaced Adrian Peterson better than anyone could have expected. The Murray-Cook combination should take pressure off quarterback Sam Bradford, who badly needed help from the running game last season.

Lions reporter Michael Rothstein also went with Minnesota's ground game as a storyline to watch in 2017.

This is a tough question because there are a lot of players with similar levels of importance, but Minnesota adding Murray might end up being the best signing in the short term (with Cook helping in the long term). Murray is not Peterson, but he's a durable running back who has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his career and has 20 touchdowns. He can offer Minnesota stability and balance in the running game and might be an excellent pairing with Cook for the Vikings.

The Vikings also return running back Jerick McKinnon, who led the team with 539 rushing yards in 2016.

Minnesota made it a focal point to improve its running game after the Vikings ranked last in the NFL with 1,205 total rushing yards in 2016.

DT Joseph key to success on defensive line

The Vikings can generate pressure on the quarterback from a variety of ways, whether it's a defensive end rushing off the edge or a linebacker getting through a gap.

But the man in the middle helps make it all possible.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune is looking at the Vikings most important players as training camp approaches, and he had defensive tackle Linval Joseph on his list.

Krammer wrote that Joseph's selfless attitude is a key reason why the Vikings defense has been on the rise in recent years.

Krammer wrote:

They don't come much more underrated or reliable than Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph, who has missed just five games in his last six NFL seasons despite playing one of the most physically taxing positions.

That's the nature of his job, often doing the 'dirty work' of taking up double teams in the run game to give his linebackers open lanes. So if for any reason the Vikings find themselves without Joseph this season, they'd have a massive hole to fill in the middle of their top-five defense.

There's a reason he was one of head coach Mike Zimmer's first additions upon being hired by the Vikings in 2014. Zimmer needed a stout, every-down nose tackle to clog up the middle and make life easier for the defenders behind him.

Joseph enjoyed a standout 2016 season as he finished third on the team with 100 total tackles (according to the coaches' tally), tied his career high with 4.0 sacks and added seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles en route to his first Pro Bowl.

Joseph became the fifth Vikings defensive tackle to have at least 100 tackles and 4.0 sacks in a season, joining Alan Page (1972-77), James White (1980-81), Charlie Johnson (1984) and Henry Thomas (1990-91).

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