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Monday Morning Mailbag: Filling In For Phil

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 feature. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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If Phil Loadholt is lost to injury, what are the chances of the Vikings picking up Evan Mathis from free agency to fill his spot? -- John San Diego, CA

That is one option. Mathis certainly knows what he's doing, having started 78 games in his career and with Pro Bowl appearances in each of the past two seasons. But he's also going to turn 34 this season and you have to wonder if too high a salary demand has kept him unsigned since Philadelphia released him. Another option for the Vikings would be to replace Loadholt with rookie fourth-rounder TJ Clemmings, who played well at the RT spot on Saturday night and who actually played with the first team at RG for most of the offseason program. You can't blame the Vikings for wanting to see what Clemmings can do with this opportunity given that they drafted him just a few months ago.

How frequently do the Vikings scout and get players (via trade) at this time of year? For example, the Eagles are very deep at safety and the Cowboys appear deep at the OL while the Vikings appear deep at RB and WR. I think it would be good to leverage our depth to improve at other positions. -- Chris

This is something you see teams do frequently around this time of year. In fact, on August 1 the Eagles traded one of their CBs – Brandon Boykin – to the Steelers because they felt they had enough depth at the position. You'll likely see at least one or two more of these kinds of player-for-pick(s) or player-for-player trades before the regular season starts as teams assess their areas of depth and areas where they don't have depth. Whether the Vikings take this approach to fix any issues, including one that has popped up with Loadholt's injury, remains to be seen. But again, I anticipate the Vikings will look at Clemmings as the RT before they look at the trade market or the free agent market.

On the depth chart, which position will be shaken up the most before the start of the season? -- Mitchell Harding Menomonie, WI

It depends what you mean by "shaken up." If that means experimented with, then I would point to the Vikings LBs. This is a group of dynamic and young players who can do a lot of things to help the defense. Veteran Chad Greenway has his spot nailed down, but after that the Vikings coaching staff has a lot of options in terms of mixing and matching certain players in personnel groupings. If healthy, Anthon Barr figures to be a cinch as a three-down LB. After that, though, guys such as Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges, Eric Kendricks and Brandon Watts have all flashed at times this camp or preseason and could all be considered for some kind of role on defense this season. And that's not even to mention Michael Mauti, Brian Peters and Edmond Robinson, all of whom are on the roster battling for positioning on the depth chart.

Do you think there will be problems with Adrian Peterson hanging on to the ball when getting hit? Recalling his past issues with fumbles, I would think there would be some concern after being out of live action for almost a year. -- Carlos Gutierrez

It's an interesting question and an issue that bears watching early in the season. But I suspect this won't be an issue for Peterson. He did have a bout with a fumbling problem in 2008 and 2009 when he was guilty of putting the ball on the ground a total of 15 times, but since then he hasn't had more than three fumbles in any season and he's actually had a total of only eight fumbles in his last 1,139 carries. Adrian had a bout with a fumbling issue a few years ago but has since seemed to resolve those issues.

With the drafting of Diggs, can't the Vikings use him as a starting kickoff returner and let Cordarrelle Patterson be a full-time wide receiver? -- TJ Vang

That's an option, but Patterson is one of the best kickoff returners in the League and I don't know that it'd be wise to take that kind of weapon off the field. Patterson led the League in kickoff return average as a rookie and he was sixth in 2014, plus opponents are now in the habit of avoiding kicking to Patterson and that is also leading to quality starting field positions after kickoffs. I'm not opposed to using Diggs on occasion on a kickoff return to give Patterson a break. If Diggs produces results impressive enough to warrant more returns, then the conversation can be revisited.

From everything we've seen from Stefon Diggs, would you say he has earned a chance for some decent playing time this season? -- Chris Ladd

There's no question about the fact that Diggs has been on fire since he stepped onto the Vikings practice fields. And he's carried that into preseason games. But the Vikings are deep at WR and I suspect he still has some work to do before anyone can ensure that he'll be a regular in the WR rotation once the season begins. I am by no means counting him out, but there is still a lot he (and the rest of the WRs) can do to get better before Week 1.

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