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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fast Start Critical In Seattle

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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It seems that we come out flat and the early play calling is suspect. Then we spend the game playing catch up! How can the team come out with some fire?
-- Bruce Taylor
Vining, MN

Coming out with fire and energy is especially important this week because the players will have to wait all day in the team hotel before kickoff at 5:15 p.m. PT and because the Seahawks have a tremendous home-field advantage that will give the home team an extra pep in its step. Coming out sharp is a function of a few things, including the ability of the coaching staff to motivate and the responsibility the players bear to play hard. There's no question in my mind the Vikings know what's at stake in this game and there's also no question most of the Vikings roster understands the challenge of playing at CenturyLink Field. I do not foresee coming out sharp and with energy being an issue for the Vikings tonight.

With Trae Waynes being listed as out, will we see more of George Iloka or Jayron Kearse?
-- Robert Kava

My sense is Holton Hill will see the biggest increase in work due to Waynes being out. I do think the Vikings will use Kearse a bit more than usual tonight, though, and it's because the Seahawks are unafraid to run the ball even in traditional passing situations and out of sub packages. So it wouldn't surprise me to see the Vikings use the "big nickel" look on Monday night.

Does running the ball help the offensive line work together better because it makes them focus on blocking schemes and on play action passing?
-- Allen Becker
Minot, ND

A lot of benefits are gained by running the ball well. It helps the entire team, not just the offense, forge an identity of physicality. It can also lead to more complementary football because it helps the offense control the clock and give the defense a longer break between series. Running the ball well also neutralizes pass rushers because they have to think twice about pinning their ears back to get after the quarterback when they know a running back may be whizzing past them. And finally, running the ball well leads to more red zone and goal line success and it really opens up play action and bootleg concepts for the offense, which is a strength of Kirk Cousins'.

The Vikings should be able to score more than ten points on the NFL's 21st ranked defense (New England). What do the Vikings have to do to improve this?
-- John Hunn

I know it's a low-hanging fruit answer, but running the ball efficiently more often would help the Vikings score more points for the reasons mentioned in the previous answer, and most particularly because it typically leads to more success in the red zone.

I'm liking what I'm seeing from Stephen Weatherly. Would it make sense to line Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter up in the A gaps every now and then when Weatherly rotates in? It might be a nice blitz package. Bring on the Seahawks!
-- Paul Pecukonis
Seattle, WA

Sure, that would be an interesting look. In that scenario, you could have Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Tom Johnson and Weatherly as the four down linemen with Barr and Hunter mugging the A gaps. Then you could get creative with alignments and assignments for Mackensie Alexander, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith. This would constitute a wrinkle in sub package strategy and wouldn't be anything used regularly, but it would be an interesting look and it would present some potential problems for offense's in terms of designing protections.