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Last offseason, Coach Zimmer and the team made a concerted effort to generate improvement in areas such as the two-minute drill and red zone. What is an area or two you think the team could focus on to improve this offseason? -- Josh River Falls, WI
Producing more negative yardage runs on defense and reducing negative yardage runs on offense, 1st down efficiency on offense, creating more explosive returns, generating more quarterback pressure and creating more turnovers are a handful that come to mind and that may be on head coach Mike Zimmer’s list. He’s usually forthright during the offseason with what he wants the team to improve upon, so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say during his Combine press conference in a couple weeks. Also, I’d be remiss not to point out that the Vikings generated significant improvement in 2017 in areas Zimmer emphasized during last offseason – red zone offense, short-yardage offense and situational football. Also, the Vikings went from worst to first on defending the end zone from inside their own 5-yardline. The ability to diagnose problems and then fix them over the course of the offseason is important, and Vikings coaches and players should be commended for their ability to do that during 2017. Now they need to continue pinpointing areas that need improvement and then spend time practicing on those things.
Once again, the Vikings are going through the process of looking for their starting quarterback. Are Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs on their way out? Is Case Keenum a one-year wonder? Will Kirk Cousins break the bank and cause cap issues that dismantle the core of the team? How does AJ McCarron stack up against the others? How much input will John DeFilippo and Zimmer have on this decision? I know there are a lot of questions, and would like to hear your input on the most important offseason issue. -- Roger Schroeder
My over-arching opinion is that the Vikings can take the next step as a team almost regardless of which quarterback they chose. The roster is that good right now. Yes, it matters who the quarterback is. But this team is so good that I believe a number of different quarterbacks could come in here and help guide the team to where it wants to go. It’s unusual for a 13-3, division-winning team to go into an offseason not knowing who will start at quarterback the following September. But what has been usual about the quarterback situation for the Vikings of late? The fact that Zimmer has been able to win two division titles in the last three years despite his extreme misfortunate at the most important position in the game is a true testament to his ability to coach.
I know Rick Spielman’s strategy has always been to try to get to 10 draft picks each year. This offseason, however, seems to be one with fewer holes/needs to plug than previous ones. Could this be a year where the strategy shifts to trading down/out for future draft picks or to trading for a marquee player? -- Jon Green
Interesting idea, Jon. I do understand where you’re coming from on this one. But I don’t anticipate a significant change in Spielman’s general offseason strategy. The “get as many picks as you can” philosophy has served the Vikings well and I don’t see a reason to change it. While I agree with Jon that this roster is not one with a bunch of holes in it, I believe the team will not take its foot off the gas and intends to use the draft as it always does – as a way to infuse the roster with young talent.
Do you think the media and social media are missing the boat on what the Vikings top story is this offseason? it's been all about the quarterback situation – who the Vikings should keep and who they should bring in. Shouldn't the big storyline be about the return of the dynamic running back Dalvin Cook? -- Kris in Utah
This is a quarterback-driven league, Kris. I know you know that because we exchange emails and thoughts a lot. You understand the significance of the position in this sport and so I would say that outsiders are on the right track when pinpointing the quarterback position as the A topic for the Vikings this offseason. With that being said, I cannot wait for Cook to be back because I do think he has a good chance to steal the show in 2018 and very quickly remind us of the pace he was on as a rookie before a knee injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Do you have any idea what kind of down time the coaches after the season is over or is it right back to work? -- John McGuire Lone Pine, CA
It’s pretty much right back to work for the coaching staff because they have to make final evaluations on player performances from the 2017 season, provide input on a plan for each player heading into 2018 and then write reports on soon-to-be free agents and the upcoming draft class. Head coach Mike Zimmer will do his best to give the coaches a chance to catch their breath and recharge for the busy offseason circuit, but time is of the essence so the coaches are right back to work preparing for 2018.