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With all the new faces on the defense, I have heard many questions and concerns. Seems that a lot of so-called experts have forgotten where Coach Zimmer cut his teeth in the NFL. Given the current roster, speed is all over the place. Talent being equal, coaching and scheme should be at an all-time high. My confidence in Zimmer and the other coaches is also at an all-time high! Some may think that the offense will be the strength of the 2020 Minnesota Vikings, and that may prove true. I am looking forward to seeing a defense built by Zimmer, with the attitude and physical dominance that will equal the offense and deliver big plays all year long! SKOL.
— Larry Lujan
Thanks for starting us off, Larry. You are correct that pundits and experts appear to have many questions about the Vikings defense going into the 2020 season. With so much turnover on that side of the ball, people are wondering what Zimmer has up his sleeve this year.
To recap, the Vikings will have multiple new starters at cornerback and will have two new starters on the defensive line as Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph are no longer on the roster. There are still plenty of familiar faces in Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, but roughly half of the defensive starters will be new.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
I think you're spot on to point out that Zimmer made his name as a defensive backs coach with the Cowboys in the 1990s, because he will likely need to draw on that experience to help mold this young but talented group. Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd each have two years of experience or less, while everyone else are either rookies or have little to no NFL experience.
One thing is certain though, and that is Zimmer will make sure this defense continues to meet the standard he has set since arriving in Minnesota in 2014. Remember that the Vikings were among the league's worst units in 2013, and he quickly turned them from respectable to dominant in a few short years. Zimmer is a prideful coach, and he will take it upon himself to make sure his defense plays well again in 2020.
When are the Vikings going to sign their rookies? The only one I saw was the rookie QB from Iowa.
— Alan Tiseth
Great timing on this question from Alan, who sent this in last Monday. The Vikings announced Thursday that all 15 members of the Vikings 2020 draft class — the largest harvested in a seven-round draft in NFL history — have signed their rookie contracts.
That means that everyone from first-rounders Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney to seventh-rounder Kyle Hinton are under contract and ready for the 2020 season.
View photos of the Vikings 2020 draft class signing their rookie contracts.
With the news of their signings, the focus now turns to how those players can make an impact in their first season in the NFL.
Jefferson and Gladney could be immediate starters, as could second-rounder Ezra Cleveland. Others such as Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch, Troy Dye play situational roles on defense and special teams.
And while we're talking about special teams, fifth-rounder K.J. Osborn is a candidate for return duties.
The 15-player draft class is going to be counted upon to provide both play-making ability and depth in 2020 and beyond.
I see Jake Browning as our backup behind Kirk Cousins. What are your thoughts on that?
— Demarous Davis
Obviously, the starting QB job is set with Cousins, especially since he's coming off a Pro Bowl season and signed an extension this offseason.
But the No. 2 job could be one of the most hotly-contested jobs in training camp. Sean Mannion, the backup in 2019, could get the nod if he performs well. The Vikings know the professionalism and support he provides for Kirk based on last season.
Browning spent 2019 on the practice squad as a rookie, and many are interested to see how that helped him progress as he heads into Year 2. The next month or so will be critical in his development as he tries to win the job behind Cousins.
Nate Stanley was a seventh-round selection and is also in the mix for the No. 2 gig. He had a strong career — and won a lot of games — at Iowa, but likely have to deal with the rookie transition to the NFL.
With preseason games up in the air, practice reps will be more important than ever. We'll be sure to track those and let you know how the competition shakes out throughout camp.