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Monday Morning Mailbag: Line Depth on Both Sides of the Ball, Breakout Candidates, More

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

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With some of the changes that happened to this team, do you think the Vikings will do better or worse in 2018 than they did in 2017?
-- Jeremy Kruchowski
Oklee, MN

The Vikings were 13-3 and advanced to the NFC title game in 2017, so just remember that it’s difficult to do much better than that. Only two teams had a better season than the Vikings in 2017, and those were the two teams who made it to the Super Bowl (Philadelphia and New England). With that said, I don’t think there’s any argument the Vikings have more talent now than they did last season and I also think it’s easy to argue that upgrades were made at key spots on the team. Hopefully that translates into a Super Bowl!

It’s a grueling season in the trenches. Coach Zimmer highlighted rotating the defensive line as a key factor for this season. Do you think we have the personnel and depth to do this on BOTH sides of the ball?
-- Johnny Rosh

Yes, to both. We all know that offensive line play has greatly impacted the past two seasons. In 2016, injuries decimated the offensive line and crippled the team’s chances down the stretch. Last season, the offensive line was greatly improved and the entire team responded as such. I love how the front office and coaching staff has made the offensive line a priority the past two offseasons. Last year, the Vikings signed free agents Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and then drafted Pat Elflein. This year, the Vikings signed Tom Compton and drafted two more linemen – Brian O’Neill and Colby Gossett. Clearly, improving the offensive line has been a top priority of late and I believe in 2018 we will see the fruits of that labor. On the defensive line, the Vikings lost Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. That’s a bummer. But they signed Sheldon Richardson to start next to Linval Joseph, which represents an upgrade at three technique. The Vikings also signed David Parry and drafted Jayln Holmes and Ade Aruna. All things considered, I feel the defensive line took a step forward this offseason in terms of talent level and depth despite the loss of Johnson and Stephen.

Recently, NFL Network came up with a list of five breakout players in the NFL for 2018. Danielle Hunter made the list at No. 2. So my question to you is if you had to make your Top 5 list of Viking breakout players, who would be on the list?
-- Kris Arndt
Utah

I’d argue that Hunter has already broken out, but if he hasn’t then he’s definitely atop this list. After Hunter, I’d include: receivers Stacy Coley and Laquon Treadwell, cornerback Mike Hughes, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and linebacker Ben Gedeon. Keep in mind, our definition and expectations of “breakout players” should be a bit tempered because the 2018 Vikings feature so many returning starters and contributors from what was one of the best teams in the League in 2017. It’s more difficult for a young player to break out on the Vikings than it is for younger players to break out on other teams.

Should I draft the Vikings defense for fantasy football, especially seeing that they face a first place schedule that includes Green Bay (healthy Aaron Rodgers), the Patriots, the Eagles and Seattle?
-- Alex Kim

Yes, you should! Who else would you consider if you had the first pick of defenses? Maybe Jacksonville, but they play the Giants, Patriots and Steelers early, then the Titans (playoff team in 2017) and Texas (healthy Deshaun Watson) twice. I suppose one could argue for the Eagles or Rams, too, but they also play difficult schedules. An underrated part of the Vikings defense is the profound home-field advantage the team enjoys. Don’t forget about that. I’d take the Vikings if I had first pick of defenses and I wouldn’t look back.

I saw a recent survey that had Mike Zimmer listed as one of the top 10 head coaches in the NFL. I'm sure you will agree that a Super Bowl ring would move him higher up on the list. However, do you think many teams are second guessing their decision not to have given him a chance?
-- Bill Dunn

I would think so. It all depends on who they hired instead. Zimmer has won 40 games, two division titles and has taken the team to a NFC title game in his first four seasons. And he’s done that with a revolving door at quarterback, more than his fair share of injuries and some other quirky adversities, such as his eye issue and having to play two seasons of home games in a college stadium.

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