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Monday Morning Mailbag: Mini-Camp Impressions

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What is your take on how minicamp went? And how did some of the lesser-known players do? -- Stefan Sodbinow

Coaches and players typically temper their enthusiasm for what happens this time of year because they are practicing in shorts and without pads. But with that being said, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer sounded satisfied with the way his team worked during the offseason program and it looks like, for the most part, the Vikings will head to Mankato for training camp next month pretty healthy.

As for a few "lesser-known" players, I'd point to OL Carter Bykowski, WR Stefon Diggs, DE Scott Crichton, DL BJ Dubose and WR Adam Thielen as guys who I heard a lot of positive chatter about or who looked good to me throughout the offseason program.

Do you think Trae Waynes is going to start Week 1? -- Stephane Nguy Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France

If I had to guess right now, I would put Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes as the two starting CBs. But if the San Francisco 49ers come out with three WRs on the first snap of the game and the Vikings respond with a sub package that includes three CBs, I do think Waynes will be that third/nickel guy as soon as Week 1 and he could be the guy who operates in the slot. This is all a guess at this stage and there is a long, long way to go before Zimmer and his staff have to make that decision, but right now that would be my guess.

If I remember correctly, the Vikings lost five games by a few points or less last year. What are a few of the changes this year from last year that will make a difference and turn some of those losses into wins? -- Alexander Malmo Sweden

You do remember correctly. In fact, the Vikings lost five games last season by one possession. One reason to expect improvement in this area is how much Zimmer focuses on crucial in-game situations during practice. A lot of other coaches do this, too, but with how young the Vikings roster was last year, particularly with the QB being a rookie, I expect better performance in those late-game situations now that everyone is a year more experienced. Additionally, the Vikings will have Adrian Peterson in the fold this year, and that will obviously make a big difference in every game and particularly in the close games.

Do you think Mike Zimmer's strategy is similar to that of Pete Carroll's – defense wins championship? Build an elite defense and then have a good offense work in harmony with the defense? -- Jegadesh Karthikeyan

While I'm sure both Carroll and Zimmer firmly believe in building great defenses and in a defenses roll in winning a Super Bowl, I am also confident they want to all phases of their team to be great, not just the defense. The best teams are the teams that play complementary football, where a good performance by the defense, special teams or offense puts the other two phases in position to succeed. Complementary football is also when one or two phases are struggling but the other phase is there to pick up the slack and carry the load for a while. Sometimes a defense can make it so 17 points is enough to win a game, which puts less pressure on the offense. Other times the defense allows 20 points but the offense is there to put up 30 and win the game. That's called complementary football, and the best teams are complete teams that don't have to rely on one style of play to be successful.

Will the Vikings stay pat at punter? I am excited about nearly every aspect of the Vikings team this year with the exception of punter. Seems wildly inconsistent and disappointing - especially at a time when the entire team and all its positions are ready for a huge breakout! -- Randy Chappell

I agree the Vikings can improve in the punt game, with consistency being atop the list of things to build. But I also believe Jeff Locke is the guy to lead the way in that improvement. He's still a young, developing and learning player, and it's important to remember that when evaluating players and assessing where changes and improvement need to be made. On top of being a young player, Locke is also doing his best to adjust to change – going from kicking at UCLA to the Metrodome and then to TCF Bank Stadium and then next year into U.S. Bank Stadium. That is a lot of change to go through for a young punter and I think he's handling it the best he can and well enough to keep his job. Also, Locke has done a nice job of being the team's holder on PATs and FGs, and I don't think that part of his job is appreciated enough by a lot of people. Again, improvement needs to be made, but that's the same for Blair Walsh and Cullen Loeffler and lots of other players on the team.

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