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Monday Morning Mailbag: Barr's Role In 2019, Concern With Youth On The O-Line, Most Intriguing Viking, More

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For years we have watched Anthony Barr drop back into coverage as part of Zim's scheme. Is there a chance we might see the defense utilize Barr's speed as an edge rusher more often? Sometimes it feels like we aren't using his talent to the fullest. Skol!
-- Nate
Danville, CA 

I can’t come close to agreeing with the idea that Barr’s talents aren’t being utilized properly in Minnesota. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler who in five seasons has tallied 23 passes defensed and 31 tackles for loss. He can guard dual-threat running backs out of the backfield and he can body up with athletic tight ends down the field. He can blitz, defend the run and cover. And he wears the green dot and calls the defense each play. It’s okay to hope for more pass-rushing situations for Barr, but you can’t argue that Zim’s defensive scheme doesn’t maximize Barr’s talent. Will he be put in more pass-rushing situations? Maybe. And if so, he can add to his 13.5 career sacks. For now, though, there’s no question Barr’s been a key cog in this defense and it’s because the Vikings have done a good job of utilizing his diverse and athletic skill set.

I'm excited for this upcoming season now that Coach Zimmer has put his foot down and is truly serious about running the ball more and giving the Vikings defense an opportunity to stay fresh. Go Vikes!
-- Kyle Williams
Modesto, CA

The NFL may be a passing league more and more these days, but Kyle is onto something when he points out that the running game is going to be important to the Vikings offense in 2019. A lot of what the Vikings want to do in the passing game – play action, bootlegs – is enhanced by a strong running game. Also, being able to control the ball on offense is going to help the defense be even more effective.

With the lack of veteran depth on the starting offensive line, how do you see the Vikings handling teams that use multiple defensive fronts to stop the pass and run?
-- Hunter Knight
Burlington, VT

Garrett Bradbury is the center and that means he’s responsible for helping quarterback Kirk Cousins set the protection and blocking scheme on a play-to-play basis. I understand the concern with a lack of experience on his part. The good news is he’s a quick study and everyone from coach Zimmer to Kevin Stefanski to Cousins has praised Bradbury for his diligence and professionalism in learning this part of the game. Also, outside of Bradbury and second-year starting right tackle Brian O’Neill, the Vikings are actually very experienced along the offensive line. Left tackle Riley Reiff has 105 games of experience, right guard Josh Kline has 79 games to his credit and left guard Pat Elflein has played in 28 games.

Fans probably put more stock in a depth chart than coaches do. It seems coaches look at bench players more situationally than they do as a numbered option at a position; skill set versus overall ability. Which players have specific traits including obvious measurables as well as intangibles that might get them on the field in specific situations?
-- Jeff Kilty
Sacramento, CA

The first player who came to mind when I read this question is Jayron Kearse. He’s not a staring safety because Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith possess those roles. But his combination of skill set, size and experience in this defense make him a valuable player for the defensive coaching staff. When he’s on the field, he’s a third safety but he’s almost equally like having another linebacker out there because of his size and physicality. Ordinarily, having an extra defensive back on the field can make the defense susceptible to the run, but not the case with Kearse. He can be the “big nickel” and give the Vikings sub package a little more punch in defensing the run. At the same time, he has the cover skills to where the defense is not shortchanged from a coverage standpoint when he’s on the field.

Thank you for the great content! Please keep it coming. With so many fantastic personnel additions in the offseason, which Viking are you most excited to watch this this season? And a bonus question: Which non-Vikings player are you intrigued to see put on the pads in 2019?
-- Jonathon Strachan
York, UK

Bisi Johnson is the new Viking I’m most excited to see perform in 2019. He impressed me right away in rookie minicamp this past spring and then he kind of blended in with the crowd for the rest of the offseason program. In training camp and the preseason, though, he really began to stand out and now he’s poised to be a contributor on offense and special teams as soon as Week 1. A non-Viking who is new to his team who I’m intrigued to watch play in 2019 is Mark Ingram in Baltimore. With the Saints, Ingram was second fiddle to Alvin Karma in the backfield. In Baltimore, he appears to be the bell cow behind a very good offensive line. I believe Baltimore is going to embrace running the ball on offense, an identity enhanced by the fact that quarterback Lamar Jackson is going to get more than a handful of carries each game. To me, Ingram appears to be an example of a perfect fit as a free agent signing.

What are the criteria for an individual to be eligible or ineligible for the practice squad? Does a practice squad member have to accept an offered from another team?
-- Noel Hong
Bayfield, WI

There is plenty of nuance to the eligibility rules and you can read up on in by looking at Article 23, Section 4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A player is eligible for the practice squad if he has not served more than two previous seasons on a practice squad, he does not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience and he was on the active list for fewer than nine games during his only Accrued Season(s). A player is not required to accept an offer from another team to join their active roster from their current team’s practice squad.

Do Practice squad salaries count against the cap?
-- Carl Jarvis
Toronto, Ontario

Yes. According to the CBA, the minimum salary for practice squad players in 2019 is $8,000 per week. Teams can budge for this at the beginning of the League Year so they leave enough room to pay the maximum number of practice squad players at least the minimum weekly salary for 17 weeks.

Based solely on the offseason moves and players returning from injuries, please rank all four NFC North teams based on their anticipated improvement in 2019.
-- Steve
Nashville, TN

There were two six-win teams in the division last season – Detroit and Green Bay. By definition, they have the biggest opportunity (and likelihood) to improve the most. Conversely, the 12-win Bears have the least opportunity (and likelihood) to register an improved win total. The Vikings, at eight wins, rest in the middle of the two extremes. Given that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and given that he wasn’t healthy for all of last season, I’d give the Packers as good a chance as any NFC North team to improve their win total the most. But I also like the Vikings in this regard because they haven’t lost anything on defense and I believe the offensive line is significantly better right now than it was during the 2018 season. To me, the top two spots are Green Bay and Minnesota, in some order, with Detroit third and Chicago fourth. Now, that is not a prediction of how the division standings will play out in 2019, rather, it’s a guess as to the chances of an increase in wins from season-to-season for each team in the division.

Has the NFL ever thought of moving the roster from 53 to maybe 55-56 players due to all the injuries that occur every season?
-- Toby S.
Alaska

This is something that would have to either be collectively bargained between the owners and the players at the next round of negotiations or an agreement between the two sides would need to be ratified during the offseason and then put into effect for the following regular season and beyond. I can see an increase in roster size happening, although that would certainly change a lot of things financially for both sides. If this happened, it would be a benefit for the players and so they’d have to compromise on another topic within the CBA negotiations. A more likely scenario, to me, would be to increase the active list on game days from 46 players to say 48 or 50 players. Another option would be to relax some of the rules governing the ability of teams to call up practice squad players and then put them back on the practice squad without increase their risk of losing the players to another club.

What penalties occur if a team doesn't have their 53-man roster in on time?
-Nate Kern
Mankato, MN

I don’t believe there is a precedent for this. If you can find one, please pass it along to me. If this did happen, though, I think the first thing the League would have to discern is if the mistake of submitting the waivers past the deadline was intentional and done as a way of deception or to create an unfair advantage. In that case, I believe the League would act swiftly and harshly in the form of a significant fine and possible loss of draft picks. More likely, though, the League would give the Club a call and ask about the tardiness of the waivers so as to aid or assist the Club in getting waivers processed.

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