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Monday Morning Mailbag: Minicamp Takeaways, Depth at WR, More

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With minicamp wrapped up, what are some things you saw that were improved on and some are still being worked on? I know it still early, but I'm trying to keep the excitement of the season fast approaching under wraps!

-- Kyle Alexander

Texas

On offense, I’m excited about how the offensive line is shaping up and about how the Vikings should be able to run the ball this year. On defense, I love how the pass rush looks and how young defenders such as Mike Hughes have come in and hit the ground running. But you know how head coach Mike Zimmer is: there is no area where the team is satisfactory in his eyes. That means every area still needs improvement. For the offense, that could be red zone efficiency or reducing penalties. For the defense, it might be defending the run or developing quality depth at linebacker and up front. It was a very good spring for the Vikings, but there is a lot of work to be done when the squad returns this summer for training camp.

John DeFilippo said a couple weeks ago he was impressed by Kirk Cousins’ arm and that he didn't realize he could drive the ball so well. Can you explain what he means by drive the ball?

-- Florian Kubes

Being able to throw the ball a long distance down the field with a low trajectory is what’s referred to as driving the ball. It’s one thing to throw the ball a long distance by lifting it high into the air, but it’s quite another to be able to throw it that same distance down the field while also keeping it closer to the ground. Doing this makes it tougher for the defense to make a play on the ball.

Which of our new offensive lineman had the best offseason program?

-- Mark

Bismarck, ND

I’m going to cheat a little bit on this answer. The lineman I’m going to point out is technically not a new offensive lineman because he was selected in the 2017 draft and played in games for the Vikings last season. It’s Danny Isidora. The silver lining in Pat Elflein being unable to participate in team drills is that the coaching staff got to look at some combinations it otherwise may not have had the opportunity to see. Nick Easton slid over from left guard to play center, and that gave Isidora an opportunity to step in at left guard and I thought he responded well. The team hasn’t been in pads and no contact has been permitted in practice, so we can only tell so much to this point. But so far, I like what I’ve seen from Isidora and it’s apparent to me that he has a chance to challenge for a roster spot and playing time in 2018.

I am concerned about WR depth. If either Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs gets hurt for an extended time, it will hamstring our offense a great deal. In OTAs or minicamp, has anyone stood out? Brandon Zylstra is big and tough. Stacy Coley is fast. Would like your opinion, but training camp should tell the tale.

-- Joe Warner

Diggs and Thielen are both top 50-60 players in this League, so yes, if either of them went down for an extended period it would create some issues for the offense. But the Vikings are no different than any other team in that regard. I do think we have a chance to have good depth at wide receiver, though. We’ll see what happens with Treadwell. Kendall Wright and Tavarres King were signed in free agency. Stacy Coley is in Year 2 and could make a big jump. I like what I’ve seen from Brandon Zylstra. I’m much closer to being optimistic and excited about the depth at receiver than I am to being worried about it.

I watch a ton of Big Ten football. With that, I have seen a decent amount of Jaylen Holmes. He always looked like a defensive tackle playing defensive end. I realize the sample size is small, but I also know that your experience allows for solid insight. During the offseason program, did Holmes show the ability and strength to play inside at the NFL level?

-- Chris Kulak

Yes. I anticipate Holmes will train inside at the three technique position, where he’ll learn behind starter Sheldon Richardson and second-year player Jaleel Johnson. From the standpoint of his size, frame and ability, Holmes is an exciting young prospect at defensive tackle and he’s in a great learning environment because he has great coaches in Zimmer and defensive line coaches Andre Patterson and Robert Rodriguez. Now it’s a matter of staying healthy, maturing physically and showing up every day with the intention of getting better. I don’t doubt Holmes has all of that in him and I’m excited to see his progress continue once training camp commences in late July.

The Vikings are being picked in the NFC either third or fourth and usually one of the teams ahead of us is the Los Angeles Rams. Do you think the September 27 game at the Rams might be an early measuring stick for the Vikings to see where they fall in the rankings in the NFC?

-- Kris

Utah

Every game is a measuring stick and I will grant you that games against higher-caliber opponents do feel like truer measuring sticks. But I also hesitate to look at any game as early as Week 4 as anything but one of 16 games on the schedule. Plus, the Vikings will encounter stiff tests before that game, including in the first two weeks when they host San Francisco and then travel to Green Bay. If the Vikings blow out the Rams in Week 4, that doesn’t mean anything if they didn’t show up for Weeks 1-3 and don’t also go out and play well in Weeks 5-17. Also remember that in this League, it’s all about when you play a team. If you play the Vikings in a week where they don’t have Xavier Rhodes or Linval Joseph or Harrison Smith, that’s a lot different than playing a Vikings team that is fully healthy. The same can be said for other teams and other players.

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