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Monday Morning Mailbag: Another Jump on 'D'?

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What qualities do you think Mike Zimmer has that will turn this organization around? -- Mark Lopez

There are a lot of qualities Zimmer has that I feel make him a perfect fit as Vikings Head Coach. But the two things I will point out about Zimmer today that I feel equip him to bring a Super Bowl championship to Minnesota are that he has experience winning at the highest level in this league and he has the ability to get the most out of all his players. Zimmer has won a Super Bowl, so he knows what it takes from an organizational structure standpoint, from a mental toughness standpoint and from a physical performance standpoint to reach the pinnacle. Also, Zimmer knows it takes all kinds of players contributing simultaneously to win at the highest level. The New England Patriots are a great example of that. They won the Super Bowl this year, and in the championship game itself they saw crucial contributions from unheralded players such as WR Danny Amendola and CB Malcolm Butler. Zimmer is a great coach who knows how to coach great players, but he's also the kind of coach who can get these unheralded players, such as seventh-round DT Shamar Stephen and WR Charles Johnson, to perform at a high level despite not being household names.

Do you think that expecting our defense to make a jump to Top 5 next season is a little unfair? -- Chris L.

I don't feel that's unfair at all. There's nothing wrong with having ambitious goals and high expectation. Besides, the Vikings made huge strides this past season, going from 31st in the NFL in total defense in 2013 when they gave up 397.6 yards per game to 14th this season in giving up 344.7 yards per game. That's a jump of 17 spots in the rankings and a decrease of 52.9 yards per game allowed. Another improvement of 52 yards per game allowed in total defense would likely land the Vikings in the top five in 2015.

The Vikings have been looking for a true #1 WR for a while. Do you think that they will try to sign someone like Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas to give to Teddy? Or possibly draft Amari Cooper or Teddy's old teammate, DeVante Parker, early in the draft? -- Ryan Hall

I do expect the Vikings to add more talent to the receiver position group this offseason, but whether that pursuit manifests in free agency, the draft or a combination of the two remains to be seen. As far as free agent options go, we won't have a good idea there until free agency actually begins on March 10 because that's when we'll know exactly who is on the market. While big names such as Bryant, Randall Cobb and Thomas are scheduled to be on the market, they could be retained by their teams and never hit the market. Until we know who is on the market, we won't know what the best option is for the Vikings as they look to add talent to the wide receiver position.

The Vikings have several position needs this off season including WR, OL, LB, and RB if Adrian Peterson departs. But I think it's very important to shore up the secondary. Do you think CB or SS is out if the question in the first or second round of this year's draft? -- Larry Vickery

It's far too early to be authoring draft-related opinions on either strategy or individual players, but one thing we can say is there are very few positions that are out of the question for the Vikings in the first two rounds, and cornerback and safety are no exception. As important as it is to defend the pass in today's NFL, particularly in a division that features the passing games of the Bears, Lions and Packers, you cannot have enough good defensive backs. I anticipate the Vikings will address both cornerback and safety in both free agency and the draft this offseason.

I have read in some articles that if we were to draft a SS early in the draft that their skill set might be a little too similar to Harrison Smith's. I was wondering if we were to draft more of a FS type player and ask Smith to move to SS, would that be smart to switch Smith from a position that he has excelled at? And if so, how hard would it be for Smith to switch but still play at his same high level of play? -- Kevin Savage

In an ideal world, the two starting safeties would be interchangeable and either starter could play either strong or free safety. The Vikings are halfway to that reality because Smith has the versatile skill set a safety needs to play both positions – regardless of what type of player the Vikings pair with Smith, it can be a good fit. It would not surprise me in the least if the Vikings added a safety this offseason who could compete with others on the roster for the other starting job alongside Smith, and it also wouldn't surprise me if that player had versatility so that he could be an interchangeable piece at the position.

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