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Monday Morning Mailbag: Areas For Improvement

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How big of a concern are Blair Walsh's preseason Struggles? -- Joseph Pacoima, CA

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer didn't shy away from calling it a concern, so I don't think the rest of us should either. But there's a difference between being concerned and panicking. It may be time to be concerned about Walsh's preseason struggles, but it is not time to panic. While the cynics among us will point out that Walsh's struggles of late are not confined to just the preseason but extend back to the 2014 season, as well, when he was 26 of 35 (74.3%), I will also submit that Walsh has been razor sharp in practices this summer and he's proven he can get back on track after an inconsistent period. Walsh was drafted by the Vikings after a senior season at Georgia that drew criticism, but he and Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer identified the issues that were causing inaccuracy and they fixed them heading into Walsh's rookie season. That season, Walsh made 35 of 38 FGs (92.1%) and he opened his career making his first 12 FG attempts of 50+ yards. The point is that we've already seen Walsh correct mistakes and play at a high level, so it's fair to expect that is what will happen following the inconsistent start to the 2015 preseason.

Is it too early to worry about the running game and Teddy's continuity with Mike Wallace? -- Robert Jones Hillside, NJ

Yes. With the running game, keep in mind Adrian Peterson has not played and the Vikings are now in the process of getting a rookie right tackle ready to play with Phil Loadholt lost for the season. And on top of TJ Clemmings making his first start on Saturday night plus no Peterson, the Vikings were also playing without C John Sullivan. I won't say the running game is where it needs to be yet, but I also know that not having Peterson really makes it tough to be too hard on how things are going. As for Wallace, while it'd be nice to see a bit more production from him this preseason, one also has to wonder if Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner is playing his cards close to the vest this preseason when it comes to his plans for the new addition. On top of that, the passing game is producing well, with both WR Charles Johnson and TE Kyle Rudolph looking particularly impressive playing alongside Bridgewater through three preseason games.

It sounds like Eric Kendricks isn't labeled as a starter quite yet, although he's been showing a great skill set and making great decisions. What more does he have to do to claim a starting position (or is this just a scheme to make him work harder)? -- Jake Seaton

With Zimmer, the competition for playing time and the process of putting the best 11 players on the field at a given time is never ending. As he commented on Saturday night after the game, the defensive coaching staff right now is messing around with a lot of different combinations at LB (and other positions) as they look to learn more about their players. To win a starting job, Kendricks must keep learning, keep improving and establish a record of consistency. Remember, with Zimmer, becoming a starter or a regular contributor is not a destination. It's a process, and it's a never-ending and ever-changing process designed to foster constant improvement and to put the best 11 players on the field.

After Babs' holding penalty on the extra point, it got me thinking....What's the rule on the new extra point rule? After the penalty, does a team still have the option to go for 2 (or vice versa)? Or do they have to stick with their original decision? -- Brian Nock Armstrong, IA

The offensive team may change its decision if a penalty occurs on an extra point play and the try will be attempted again. If this does happen at all during the 2015 season, where I think you'll see it is when the offensive team decides to go for 2 and converts but is also flagged for a penalty. In that scenario, the points come off the board, the offense backs up 5, 10 or 15 yards (depending on the infraction), and the head coach decides he'd rather have his kicker attempt a 40ish-yard FG than go for 2 from the 7, 12 or 17 yard line.

It will be interesting to see how frequently teams decide to go for 2 with the new PAT procedure. We've seen a significant increase in 2-point conversion tries this preseason, but that was expected given that these are exhibition games and teams feel freer to experiment. When the preseason concludes and the games start to count in the standings, perhaps we'll see coaches revert back to the habit of going for 1 after TDs.

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