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Monday Morning Mailbag: Replacing Pierce, Roster Explanations and Troy Dye's Potential

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

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I was sad to lose Linval Joseph, but excited to see Michael Pierce take over his spot. Now, hearing that he is opting out of the 2020 season, it brings up a question: If significant advances are made in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 between now and the start of the season, can players opt back in? Thanks!

— Ryan Pickett South St. Paul, Minnesota

View photos of new Vikings DT Michael Pierce who has agreed to terms with the team.

Ryan starts us off with the big news from last week that free-agent signee Michael Pierce opted out (high-risk category) for the 2020 season.

At this moment in time, no, a player cannot opt back in after choosing to opt out for the 2020 season. Even if there are advancements made against COVID-19 (and we all hope that is the case), players who have chosen to opt out will not be playing during this season.

The absence of Pierce will be big, and not just because he is 6-foot and 340 pounds. He is an absolute beast as a run stuffer in the middle of the defensive line, as evidence by his work with the Ravens in recent years. But with that said, he has all of my support for choosing to focus on the health and himself and his family during this time.

Here is what Pierce, who has asthma and dealt with pneumonia in 2017, said on a recent radio interview about his decision: "I really realized that if something like that gets out of hand, I can not only end up in the hospital, but I could potentially end up in the grave."

With Pierce out for the 2020 season, the onus will now fall on players such as Jaleel Johnson, Armon Watts and Jalyn Holmes at defensive tackle for the Vikings. Those players have a chance to prove what they can do if they win a starting job. Minnesota also could turn to Shamar Stephen, who started 15 games in 2019, to move over to Joseph's former post.

Hello from Slovakia, heart of Europe. I'm a Vikings fan since I started watching the NFL in 2017 (too shortly, I know :D) and I admire this site, thanks for that. By the way, my question is if you could explain a little bit how the squad functions during the season. I know that our limit at the moment is 90 players, during the season 53 men, I think. I know something about practice squad, but I'm not sure about the process, the dates, injuries and so on...thanks lot. SKOL.

— Róbert Šubert in Trenčín, Slovakia

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

Thanks for the email, Robert, and the passion from across the pond. NFL rosters will look a little bit different during training camp and during the season, and here's a breakdown.

All NFL teams must be at 80 players by August 16, a new rule this summer due to the pandemic. Teams will have their usual 53-man rosters once the season starts, but practice squads will have more players.

They were usually at 10 players in years past but will be bumped up to 16 players this season to provide extra depth for teams to help protect against players potentially going on the COVID/Reserve list and missing time. Teams can add players to the active roster from their practice squad in case of injuries or other roster moves.

Teams will also have more access to players on game day. A rule in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2021-30 was adopted for the 2020 season, expanding the number of players who can suit up from 46 to 48. One of those extra two players must be an additional offensive lineman.

I hope that answers your questions, and thanks again for your support for Vikings Entertainment Network from afar.

What changes are being planned for the Vikings offense? With Stefon Diggs gone, and a WR replacement needed, I'm wondering what kind of changes are the Vikings offense going to be focusing on and or changing all together? SKOL Vikings in the desert southwest.

— David Miller in Tucson, Arizona

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of September 21, 2020.

There will be a few personnel changes this season, with Justin Jefferson and Tajaé Sharpe likely the top candidates to replace Diggs at wide receiver. The five starters on the offensive line still needs to be sorted out, but there could be a few new starters there, too, mainly at the guard spots.

But as far as the schematic tweaks on offense, don't look for any huge changes. With Gary Kubiak now calling the offensive plays — and based off the influence he had in 2019 as an advisor and assistant head coach — the system won't change much when Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and crew are on the field.

If anything, there should be some measure of stability and continuity on offense since the majority of the skill players return and are familiar with Kubiak's scheme and coaching style. The Vikings offense played well in 2019, and the hope for that unit is that they take another step forward in 2020.

With the unusual training camp and the lack of preseason games, does Troy Dye have any chance of meaningful situational time on the field beyond playing on special teams? Dye has a great combination of frame, speed and a high Football IQ. It seems as though he'd be a great fit for passing downs to cover tight ends and for drops to the middle zones. He's also shown that he's got the speed and tackling ability on the blitz. Dye still needs to add some bulk and strength to be on the field regularly but he would not be too hurt by the lack of bulk on pass downs. The Vikings will be in a tough cap situation next year, and I wonder if the staff want to see Dye on the field early and often in order to see if he could be an adequate replacement should Anthony Barr's contract prove too much to carry in 2021? Skol Vikings!

— Tom Fowler in Palm Harbor, Florida

View photos of Vikings new fourth round draft pick Oregon LB Troy Dye.

Great questions, Tom. To me, the three rookies who have the best chance to start in Year 1 are Jefferson, Jeff Gladney and Ezra Cleveland, and even Cleveland's potential starting spot still needs to be sorted out on the offensive line.

The Vikings liked Dye's production and skill set coming out of Oregon, especially since he is the only player in Oregon history to lead the team in tackles for four consecutive seasons. But what will his role be in 2020? I think barring any injuries to the combination of Eric Kendricks, Barr, Eric Wilson and/or Ben Gedeon, Dye will likely play a key role on special teams in his rookie season.

That doesn't mean he won't have the chance to perhaps see the field on defense in come certain packages, but special teams is where he should primarily make his mark as a rookie. I agree with you that he has the traits to do well on passing downs and in nickel situations, but the Vikings are stacked there with Barr and Kendricks. Not only are they ultra-athletic on the field, but they are also extremely well-versed in the defensive scheme since they are going into their sixth season together.

I like Dye's potential down the road, but for 2020 his impact will likely come on special teams, which the Vikings emphasize as a key component to success.

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