Monday Morning Mailbag: Offensive Cohesiveness, New Kickoff Rule, More

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I love the current roster. I don't see any holes besides possibly on the offensive line. We have a new offensive coordinator and a new system. Do we have enough time to get all these high-profile names working on the same page? -- Kasey McRobbie Clovis, New Mexico

For sure. The offseason program began back in mid-April, there are 10 OTAs in May and June, then the mandatory minicamp in mid-June and more than a month of training camp and preseason. Building a team and maintaining a defensive or offensive system is a never-ending process, but there’s no question in my mind that offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will have his group humming along quite well when Week 1 rolls around.

Has there been anyone in particular standing out during OTAs? -- Gus Fanter Westfield, IN

There have certainly been stand out players and moments during the first six OTAs. The defense has generally looked good, including the pass rush. Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs connected on a long touchdown pass last week and Laquon Treadwell has grabbed a few red zone touchdowns. It’s been great to see Dalvin Cook on the field, Marcus Sherels got his hands on a couple interceptions during the first week of OTAs and Mack Brown has gotten some run with the second team at running back. But we’ll take it all with a grain of salt for now because there is a lot of learning going on and coaches are experimenting with a lot of things. There’s a long way to go before any big-picture decisions are made.

Sure am happy we are not a zone defense very much anymore. That, in my mind, was a cover for incapable players. Really good players can go man-to-man and win. What do you think about this logic? -- Raymond Nelson

I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking. I honestly don’t know the breakdown of how much man defense the Vikings play compared to how much zone they play, and I’m guessing coach Zimmer would tell us he plays a lot more zone than we realize. There’s a place for both man defense and zone defense. In fact, it is probably hardest on an opposing offense when a defense can play both man and zone, especially when it’s unpredictable as to which style the defense is going to play in a given situation.

With the new kickoff rule seemingly aiding the return team, would not having your kicker just drive the ball out of the end zone be a much safer move? -- Chris Kulak

Touchbacks eliminate the threat of a long return and of return touchdowns, so from that standpoint it is safer to just blast the football out of the end zone every time. But there’s no guarantee that your kicker can boot it through the end zone, and you run the risk of the kicker mishitting it and line driving it, which gives the return team a significant advantage. So there is some give and take with the strategy of trying to blast the ball through the end zone every time. I would not consider starting a possession on your own 20-yard line favorable, so I do agree that aiming for touchbacks as a kickoff team is wise. At the same time, there is something to be said for trying to loft a kickoff high and land it inside the 20. This does permit a return and opens up the potential for an explosive play, but it also allows the coverage team more time to cover the kick and potentially tackle the returner inside the 20, which gives the defense an even bigger advantage on the ensuing series. More than likely, it will be a kick-to-kick approach for the Vikings and the decision of what strategy to use will be dependent on a number of variables ranging from the quality of returner on the other team, the score and time of the game, and weather conditions.

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