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Monday Morning Mailbag: O'Neill's Development, Depth at CB, Standouts Among Undrafted Players

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I read reports about our coaches testing Jayron Kearse at linebacker. I was wondering if he's been practicing in that position in the offseason program and if so, how did he look? #SKOL
-- Arturo Calvillo
San Antonio, TX

I am certain Kearse will play significant snaps on defense in 2019. I am not certain what percentage of those snaps will feature Kearse as the big nickel, third safety, or linebacker, but I know there will be a significant number of snaps for him. It seems less likely to me that he'd train at linebacker full time and more likely that he'll remain a safety, but at the end of the day those characterizations are elementary. The bottom line is Kearse is a hybrid-type of player, or a wild card, for the defense and his combination of athleticism and size makes him a good card for head coach Mike Zimmer to have in his deck.

Last year, Brian O'Neill was being seen as an under-sized tackle and needed to put on more weight and muscle. How does he look now in your opinion?
-- Tim Mihalcoe

As is so often the case, the instant reaction to the selection of O'Neill in the 2018 NFL Draft turned out to be dead wrong. Analysts outside the building suggested O'Neill was one or maybe even two years away from helping. O'Neill actually helped early in Year 1 and did a commendable job. His development was only accelerated because he was thrust into action so early, and now he's actually a perfect fit (athleticism, body type and skill set) for the offense under new coordinator Kevin Stefanski. I don't know about being undersized and I don't know about how much muscle or weight he's added, but I do know O'Neill is a part of the solution when it comes to the offensive line and the Vikings were prudent and wise to use a 2nd-round pick on him when they did.

Haven't heard much on Alexander Mattison. Is he looking like the RB2, like Latavius Murray was?
-- Jeff Kilty
Sacramento, CA

If one had to identify one guy as the favorite to be the RB2 in 2019, I suppose Mattison would be the guy. But I've even surer that both fellow running back Ameer Abdullah and fullback CJ Ham will also have plenty of touches on offense.

The cornerback spot worries me a little, which leads me to believe they'll restructure or cut someone to sign a veteran at that spot. Preposterous?
-- Derek Lansing
Inver Grove Heights, MN

I wouldn't call it preposterous, but I do think it's a longshot that the Vikings trade for a veteran cornerback before the season. The Vikings are strong when it comes to their first three cornerbacks – Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. They also have two quality depth pieces in Holton Hill and Mike Hughes, but this is where it gets interesting. Hill is suspended for first four games of the regular season and Hughes may not be ready when the regular season opens, so that leaves two potential cornerback spots open for competition on the 53-man roster. The good news is there are plenty of youngsters in the fold to compete for theses spots, such as draft picks Kris Boyd and Marcus Epps, so that's why I feel a trade is not likely at this point.

Of the undrafted players, who are you most impressed with?
-- Chris Folwer

Other than quarterback Jake Browning, it's hard to pinpoint many who stood out compared to so many returning veterans on this roster. What was notable, though was how several second-year players stood out. Wide receiver Chad Beebe, tight end Cole Hikutini and defensive linemen Hercules Mata'afa and Ifeadi Odenigbo all had impressive springs and will all challenge for spots on the 53-man roster this summer.