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Monday Morning Mailbag: Independence Day Edition

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Greetings and Happy 4th of July to everyone. We have some fun topics to get to in this week's Mailbag and training camp is right around the corner. Plus, US Bank Stadium is ready to open and the Vikings are coming off an 11-win and division championship season. So there is a lot to be excited about right now in Vikings country. But today is a great day to help us keep perspective. It is the day that marks the birth of our great country. I hope all of you have a chance to spend it with those close to you and I also hope you have a moment to reflect on your pride in your country and your gratitude to all of those who've come before us to create, serve and protect it. Now, on to your mail.

I feel Linval Joseph is one of the most underrated defensive tackles in football. In fact, I think he's just as good as JJ Watt, or even better. If it weren't for him being injured, he would've made the Pro Bowl. Why do sports analysts down play Linval? -- David Derby

I agree Joseph is an underrated player and a big reason for that is a lot of his value comes not from accumulating statistics but from doing things that allow teammates to put up good numbers. Often times, Joseph is asked to occupy blockers so that linebackers can run and tackle or so that other defensive linemen can take advantage of one-on-one situations. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if Joseph receives acclaim for what he does, it just matters that he continues to do his job so that his teammates are better able to do their jobs. That is the Zimmer way.

With all of the attention surrounding expected starters Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell and the resurgence of both Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson, it seems as though both Jarius Wright and Adam Thielen have been lost in the public eye. Do you envision Jarius starting in the slot on three-receiver sets? Do you see Thielen continuing to increase his snap count? -- Marcus Burgin

It can be difficult to categorize receivers as starters or backups because typically the receivers who are active on game day are rotating quite a bit. Granted, one or two will see significantly more snaps than the others, but generally speaking a team needs three or four receivers, at least, every game who are able to be on the field at any given time. Wright is the senior-most member of the WR corps and he's also a receiver who can line up out wide or in the slot, so he has great value. Thielen has such a large role on special teams and is such a good run blocker as a receiver that it's hard to ever see him not significantly involved in a game. The Vikings are going to need all of their receivers, in one way or another, to step up and perform well during the course of each game and of the entire season. It's a versatile group and there are a couple of them who will contribute on special teams regularly. 

I haven't heard much on free agent TE Brian Leonhardt. I know we have Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt, Rhett Ellison and 2016 draft pick David Morgan, but I was just wondering how Leonhardt has performed in the offseason program and how does he help the TE room? Do you think he'll have any chance of making the team with as much depth as we have right now at the TE position? -- Levi Bauer Eagan, MN

There's no question that TE is one of the deepest parts of the Vikings roster. But that's a good position to have a lot of depth because the Vikings ask so much of the players at the position. Pass catching, pass blocking, run blocking and special teams are four of the primary ways the Vikings use the TE and so it's important to have as many hands on deck as possible. I haven't seen enough of Leonhardt yet to really have a thorough opinion on him, but one way to look at it is to realize that he came to the Vikings after being with the San Francisco 49ers last season. Of course OL coach Tony Sparano joined the Vikings staff early in the offseason and I'm sure he had some notes on Leonhardt from their time together in San Francisco. So that Leonhardt was observed by Sparano in San Francisco before he was signed here and that Leonhardt is still here after 14 weeks of the offseason program is a good indication that he has a chance to carve out a role for himself on this team, particularly if he demonstrate potential to contribute on special teams.

What are your thoughts on Scott Crichton working his way into the rotation? Zimmer likes work ethic, but we're deep at DE/DT -- Chase Hicks @Chasey_Lane99

Helping Crichton's chances is that he has position flexibility because he can play DE or slide inside as a nickel rusher. It also helps that he can contribute on special teams. But Chase is right that the Vikings have great depth along the DL, so that means the competition is thick for Crichton and many of the other DL on the roster right now. My thoughts are that I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage and that I'm anxious to see him play in pads once we get to Mankato for training camp.

Of the 90-man roster, who has been in the NFL the longest? What about the coaches? -- Blake Dufner Denver, CO

The veteran most player on the roster right now is QB Shaun Hill, who will be entering his 15th season in 2016. Norv Turner, who will be entering his 32nd season as a NFL coach, takes the honors among the coaches.

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