Monday Morning Mailbag: Athleticism vs. Size On The O-Line, Playing Better In Primetime Games, More

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I think Eric Kendricks is one of the most underrated middle linebackers in the NFL. He plays sideline-to-sideline and has led us in tackles for the past three years. Why do you feel he is overlooked?
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

Danielle Hunter had 14.5 sacks last season. Xavier Rhodes shadows and contains the best receivers in the League on a regular basis. Anthony Barr is a sensational athlete who can make plays anywhere on the field. These are all flashy components of the defense. Kendricks is a meat and potatoes, lunch pail type of player. While that may lead to less time in the spotlight, it doesn’t diminish his importance to coach Zimmer. I can assure you he’s not under-appreciated or overlooked inside TCO Performance Center. Kendricks’ coaches and teammates understand the value he brings to the defense.

Athletic is great. But an offensive line still has to win on a 4th and 1 when the coach decides not to kick. I will be watching this athletic line to see if it can push a pile when the time comes. Skol!
-- Jeff Kilty
Sacramento, CA

Mike Zimmer may have overseen a shift of sorts in offensive line identity, but it hasn’t come at the expense of physicality. Jeff raises a valid point. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the switch to a blocking scheme that includes athletic linemen who can get to the second level I have no doubt this offensive line will excel in that area. There are several short-yardage snaps in every game, though, and these moments are critical to the outcome of the game. Coach Zimmer understands this and will expect his offensive line to demonstrate grit and toughness in these moments.

Why isn't the team bringing in another kicker to compete against Dan Bailey? SKOL to a great season!
-- Chris Zepponi
Napa, CA

Competition is always a good thing. If the Vikings decided to bring in another kicker to compete with Bailey, I’m sure the veteran would welcome the challenge and would respond. To me, though, the fact the team isn’t doing that is a signal of confidence in Bailey and also a suggestion that the source of any ineffectiveness in the kicking game may not be the kicker. Bailey is only a part of the place kicking operation because you also have protection, the snap and the hold. All of these components must be working well and must be in synch or else even the best kicker will be rendered ineffective.

I'm a huge Vikings fan from Oregon and I'm also a huge Ducks fan. I really would love to see Dillon Mitchell, from the University of Oregon, make the team. What are your thoughts as to how realistic of a chance he has to make the final 53-man roster?
-- Brian Massey
Florence, OR

It’s quite realistic that Mitchell will make the 53-man roster. I wouldn’t guarantee it or predict it at this stage, but it’s a realistic proposition, that’s for sure. Mitchell has a lot of talent and it’s clear to see he’s a natural playmaker with the football in his hands. He’s also the kind of player who plays bigger than he’s listed. On top of all that, he plays a position that has a wide open competition for spots on the depth chart. After Chad Beebe, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, there isn’t much certainty on the depth chart and that means even a rookie, such as Mitchell or Bisi Johnson, has a golden opportunity. I expect Mitchell to look better and better as training camp progresses, and if he can showcase his abilities in preseason games then he’ll take the next step to solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster.

As all Vikings fans know, we did not perform well in prime time games and in games against elite teams last season. What is Coach Zimmer doing in training camp to prepare us for these types of games, such as games at the Chiefs, Seahawks and Chargers, and then playing our division rivals?
-- Daniel Paulos

It might be a mentality more than anything. Playing in prime time, especially on the road, does necessitate changes in routine because the games are at night and there is a lot of sitting around the day of the game as opposed to when you play at noon CT on a Sunday. Other than that, though, the game is the same. Same rules, same field. And I think that is part of coach Zimmer’s message to the team. You’ll hear him say a lot that it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play them…it matters how we play. You have to be good in critical areas such as 3rd downs and the red zone. You have to take care of the football on offense and take the football away on defense. And you have to be physical. If the Vikings do those things, then they’ll have a good chance of success no matter what time the game is played. Outside of making some tweaks to the itinerary, I don’t think there’s much coach can do differently to prepare his team for a night game compared to preparing them for a day game.

I see the NFL is expanding the number of inductees into the Hall of Fame for next year’s class and is calling it the "Centennial Class.” Will Jim Marshall FINALLY get the call to the Hall that is long overdue? Thanks.
-- Ben

I am hopeful and optimistic that 2020 will be the year Jim Marshall goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I know a lot of people who agree with Ben that Marshall deserves to go in, and I am one of them. Now there is a great opportunity to do it with the Centennial Class idea. Mick Tingelhoff got the nod a few years ago and seeing Marshall honored the same way will bring a lot of good closure to a lot of folks who’ve stumped for him for a long time.

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