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Which area of our team do you feel we have the most depth? And what solidifies your reason for picking that position? -- Chauncy White
There are a few different ways you could go here, but I'll take a swing at the LBs. The Vikings return their top three at the position from last year – Anthony Barr, Chad Greenway and Eric Kendricks – plus they've added talent to the position in free agency with the signing of Emmanuel Lamur and in the draft by selecting Kentrell Brothers in the 5th round. On top of that, Audie Cole returns from injury plus Edmond Robinson has impressed and seems poised to take a big jump in his sophomore season.
The Vikings added players at many different positions this offseason, but not really at DT. I know they have some depth there, but not seeing any players added to the position makes me wonder why. -- Trace Walter
You said it, Trace – the Vikings already have depth at the position. Both starters (Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph) and primary backups (Kenrick Ellis, Tom Johnson) from last season are under contract for 2016, plus Shamar Stephen, who was a primary backup, returns from injury. That means the top five DTs on the roster last year all come back for 2016, which doesn't leave much room for newcomers and makes it difficult for any newcomers who are added to find a spot on the depth chart.
Do you think AP's reputation for being one of the NFL's greatest at his position inadvertently causes the Vikings to use him when he may be detracting from the overall effectiveness of the offense (i.e. the defense being able to key our down and distance play-calling tendencies with him on or off the field)? -- David Vukelich
No. I believe it was ineffective pass protection that led to the Vikings lack of balance in play calling last season. Because the pass protection couldn't be relied upon consistently, the Vikings leaned heavily on the running game. This accomplished two positive things: 1) it played to the strength of the offense – Adrian Peterson; 2) it sheltered Bridgewater from pressure, turnovers and injuries. I give the Vikings offensive staff a lot of credit for adjusting the plan through the course of the season to play to the offense's strength and complement what the defense was doing by controlling the clock at times and generally doing a great job of winning the field position battle. The Vikings wound up with the most rushing attempts and the fewest passing attempts in the League last season, and I can assure you that wasn't the game plan going into the year. But circumstances changed and the coaching staff had to figure out how to best construct game plans to win games based on how the players were performing. If the pass protection can improve, then I think the play calling and overall offensive success (and balance) will follow.
Coach Zimmer has done a great job with the defense so far and I am anticipating another great year from them. I think this year the offense should be able to also make a big improvement. How improved have Teddy and the wide receivers looked so far in OTAs? Should we expect the Vikings to focus more on the passing game this year? -- Chad Bebault Robbinsdale, MN
It's been a lot of fun to watch Bridgewater work with the WR corps this offseason because it's a young group overall and you can see them blending well together, making improvements and having fun while doing it. Stefon Diggs is a fun player to watch in practice because he truly does treat practice just like a game, including wearing the pants from his game uniform on the practice field some days. I will not be surprised if he has a big year in 2016.
As for focusing more on the passing game, I don't think it's about putting more focus on it. It's more about putting all the pieces of it together – pass protection, WRs getting open, Bridgewater delivering on target and on time – and finding a way to be efficient enough through the air to match the dominant running game so the offense is a more balanced attack.
How much scouting does a team do on talent in the next draft class? Does this play into making a trade like the one with Miami this year? -- Bill Eckerstorfer
The trade Bill is referencing is the trade where the Vikings sent a 3rd-round pick this year to Miami in exchange for a 6th-round pick this year plus a 3rd-rounder and 4th-rounder next year. My sense is teams don't have nearly a good enough idea on the next year's class of prospective players to have that be a motivating factor in trading for picks in the following draft. Teams are more motivated to add picks in a future draft based on their own projections of their roster. For example, if a team has a high number of players with expiring contracts the following year, they may feel compelled to stockpile a few extra picks in the following year's draft because they know they have a lot of work to do in free agency and may not be able to sign all of those players back.