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Monday Morning Mailbag: Making The Jump in 2015

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With much of the offseason talk centering around either Teddy, AP, or one of our other big-name players, who do you look at as an under-the-radar, non-rookie player who has a chance to make a big impact in 2015? One offense, one on defense. -- Clayton Brooks Ramstein, Germany

On offense, I look at WR Charles Johnson as one who has breakout potential in 2015. He clearly developed a rapport with Bridgewater last season and with the attention that will be paid to fellow receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Wallace along with the eight-man boxes defenses will have to slow down Adrian Peterson, I think Johnson will have plenty of opportunities.

On defense, Sharrif Floyd seems poised to take another significant step forward playing a second season in Mike Zimmer's defense. Xavier Rhodes received a lot of credit for making huge improvements in Zimmer's defense last season, but I thought Floyd made a significant jump as well and I expect he will do so again in his third season. He has tremendous quickness on the inside and I think he can use that to not only be an effective pass rusher but to also be a disruptive force against the run.

The Vikings have built the offense around Adrian Peterson for some time now. Do you see this continuing, or do you see a major shift away from the power run/run-first strategy to an offense using more of our new talent in Norv Turner's scheme? -- Charles Daniel

I see a little bit of both happening for the Vikings offense and I think that's a good thing because it will equip the offense to do two important things throughout the season – make in-game adjustments to adapt to circumstances (changing defense, facing a large deficit, weather, etc.) and create game plans that can attack a variety of defenses. With Peterson in the fold, the Vikings can look to establish the run, which all offenses want to do. But with Bridgewater emerging and with some talented pass catchers around him, Turner and his offensive staff can continue to develop a franchise quarterback and an explosive passing game, which is important to do in today's NFL. The bottom line is, even with Bridgewater and the passing game emerging, I don't see an offensive shift away from Peterson, the best running back in the NFL.

Could you see the Vikings possibly signing free agent WR James Jones? -- David Ward

It's possible and I wouldn't rule anything out, but at this stage I see the Vikings moving forward with what they have at the position. If the Vikings feel there is a pressing need at a position once the offseason program wraps up, then I can see them dipping into the veteran free agent market to fortify the roster heading into training camp.

I've read that Trae Waynes is not good covering short to intermediate routes, but excels in coverage on deep routes. Is there any validity to this? I don't watch a lot of Michigan State games, so I don't know. If it's true, do you think Coach Zimmer can fix him? -- Nick Langer

I don't agree with the contention that Waynes isn't good at covering short-to-intermediate routes. He anticipates well and he has an impressive ability to break on the ball, and those two traits will equip him to cover well on short and intermediate routes. Ultimately, whether he is better at longer routes because of his speed or shorter routes because of other traits, the bottom line is he's a rookie in the NFL and he's going to need to improve in all areas, and there's nothing wrong with that. The same can be said for every rookie at every position. The good news is that he has a great coaching staff here in Minnesota and the way they worked with Rhodes and helped him improve last year gives me confidence Waynes will improve as time goes on, as well.

Is DE Danielle Hunter the kind of project that Everson Griffen and Brian Robison were in the aspect of being raw but super athletic and with high motors? -- Chris Ladd Gaunica, Puerto Rico by way of East Bethel, MN

Yes, because of Hunter's youth (he is 20 years old) and lack of experience playing the position, I feel it's fair to say he is a project for the Vikings coaching staff, and there is nothing wrong with that. As Chris pointed out in his question, both Griffen and Robison were at one time considered projects and now they are mainstays on the defense. Hunter has tremendous athleticism and body control, which can allow him to make a lot of plays that others just can't make, and he has long levers and a frame that he can bulk up as he matures, which can make him effective versus the run.

When NFL teams are scouting for potential draft prospects, do they look more towards a certain college program for a particular position because of college coaches? For example, if a team was looking to fill a need in the secondary, would they look at schools like Michigan State or Virginia Tech because both schools have great secondaries run by smart coaches? Or do they just scout random players based on their performance over the course of the season? -- Ward Cherry

While some coaches and even programs are known for producing certain types of players or more players from certain positions, NFL teams still evaluate each position (and each player) on an individual basis. Any past experience or past success by a coach or program in a certain position or with a certain type of player is certainly a variable that teams consider, but it is no the be-all, end-all of the evaluation process.

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