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Monday Morning Mailbag: Cousins Using Play-Action, Hunter's Alignment on Defense, Team's Morale Heading Into Camp

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If you had to pick now, who do think would be the backup center? Would Pat Elflein move over from guard to play center?
-- Scott VanSickle
Richfield, MN

Not counting Elflein, you’d have to look at Brett Jones and Cornelius Edison as perhaps the two primary candidates to be the backup center. But Scott makes a valid point that Elflein is also a candidate to play center should Garrett Bradbury become unavailable for any reason. The Bradbury replacement would probably depend on the timeframe. If Bradbury was going to be out a significant amount of time, then it’s more likely that Elflein would kick back inside to center and a new left guard would come into play. If Bradbury’s absence was anticipated to be short, that’s when it may become more likely that Edison or Jones is inserted into the lineup. And keep in mind, those are my thoughts as of now and the opinions are subject to change once we get to training camp and put pads on and then once again during the preseason when these guys are able to perform under the lights and against an opponent.

Have you seen Danielle Hunter more on the right side this offseason? Given his long arms, would right end suit him better? Would we be seeing more of Everson Griffin at left end and Hunter at right end?
-- Eddie
Colorado

Hunter has practiced and played on the right side frequently over the last couple seasons and offseasons and I’m sure that will continue into the 2019 regular season. The Vikings defensive coaching staff has flexibility with Griffen and Hunter because both players can be effective on either side, so that gives the staff more options when it comes to alignment and play calls. I expect to see both Griffen and Hunter line up in multiple spots up front in 2019 but so far I would also say their default positions will remain the same – Hunter at left end and Griffen at right end.

I hear all the time that Kirk Cousins is a great play action quarterback. With the emphasis more on play action this year, I wonder what exactly does Kirk do so well that separates him in the play action game?
-- Dave Smith
Winnebago, MN

Excellent question, Dave. I asked this question of last week’s On the Line guest, Rich Gannon. Rich gave a thorough answer and I encourage everyone to watch the video that is included above. What I like about what Rich said is that it’s the mental part of the game in which Cousins excels, not just the physical part. Cousins is a smart player, he prepares meticulously and he demands a lot of himself from a mental standpoint, and that bears itself out in how well he performs in the play action game.

Do you think the Vikings will play the best man on the offensive line even if it’s a rookie clearly outplaying a veteran?
-- Marvin Williams
Robbins, IL

Definitely. There are too many people investing too many resources to intentionally not play the best five lineman. Once players get on the team and get into practices, coaches don’t care about their background, where they came from or when they were drafted. It’s all about finding the five best guys and then getting them out on the field together as a unit as quickly as possible so they can develop synergy.

Can you get a read on the morale of the team right now? Do you sense the team is energized and excited or what is your take right now?
-- Adam J.
Derby, KS

I sense a team that is energized and laser focused heading into training camp. There’s an interesting convergence of sentiment happening, in my view. On one hand, no one is anticipating a step backwards from the defending NFC North champion Bears and the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers. So the Vikings, despite the boat load of talent on the roster, are a team many people may pick to finish third in the division. A team with this much talent flying that far under the radar is a good thing. On the other hand, many of those talented players on the roster have earned big contracts. And the mantra “to whom much is given, much is expected” will not be lost on those players. So my sense is the Vikings have a lot of prideful players who are eager to prove the team right for investing in them and those players will be able to fly under the radar while they search for vindication.

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