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With both the defensive line and offensive line getting pushed around on Thursday, what does the Vikings coaching staff need to do to get better play from our lineman? When we played Atlanta we were dominant, and then against Green Bay we looked bad. What do we need to do to get better play? -- Dave P. St. Louis Park
After a performance like last Thursday night's in Green Bay, there aren't many parts of the team that can be satisfied with their performance. With that being said, I don't know that it's incumbent on the coaching staff to do things differently to get better results. At some point, the players must take it upon themselves to give a better accounting of themselves. There wasn't one Vikings player in the locker room following the Green Bay loss who was casting any sort of blame toward the coaches.
With that being said, coaching and game planning is important. The Vikings staff is hard at work right now studying the Detroit Lions and putting together a game plan that will use the Vikings strengths to attack the Lions weaknesses. But the bottom line is the players have to execute better, and I think they will on Sunday at home against Detroit.
With 10 days of preparation, what changes can the Vikings offense and defense make to prepare for the Detroit Lions next weekend? -- Tyler P. Park Rapids, MN
One thing right off the bat that should be better is our injury report, most notably at the quarterback position. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer indicated after the loss to Green Bay that he expects Teddy Bridgewater will be able to start on Sunday against Detroit, and that will give a huge boost to the offense and perhaps to the whole team. Outside of that, the 10 days between games will allow the Vikings to do some self-scouting to identify and begin to eliminate tendencies and also to develop solutions to some problems, such as how to get Cordarrelle Patterson more involved and how to get off the field more consistently on 3rd down.
Cordarrelle Patterson looked like he was going to be a breakout player this year after Week 1 against the Rams. What's happened, and why aren't the Vikings using him like Seattle uses Percy Harvin? -- Tanner W. Mitchell, SD
A huge factor in why Patterson hasn't been able to be more productive is the fact that, without Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, opposing defenses have been able to focus on stopping Patterson without another huge threat being able to take advantage of the emphasis being placed elsewhere. If you go back and watch the Week 1 game in St. Louis, you'll see that all the attention being placed on Peterson allowed the Vikings to get the ball to Patterson. Now that the threat of an explosive running game isn't as consistent, the threat of Patterson is easier for defenses to neutralize. This is exactly why Seattle is able to have a lot of success with Harvin – they have a powerful downhill running back in Marshawn Lynch who commands attention and frees up Harvin.
In order to find more production with Patterson, the Vikings must first display an ability to produce big yardage in other ways, such as through the air with Greg Jennings or by developing a more consistent rushing attack with the combination of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. The Vikings started to do this against Atlanta two weeks ago, and if they can get back to that type of output from the running game then I have a feeling Patterson will be able to break free from the defense a little more often.
What is the possibility of bringing in wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins from the free agents list? -- Michael A.
Thompkins, who was a promising prospect for New England and scored four touchdowns last season, was waived by New England last week and is currently a free agent. [CORRECTION: Thompkins had not cleared waivers, was not a free agent, and was claimed on waivers by the Oakland Raiders.] The Vikings are constantly assessing their own roster and scanning the market for ways to improve the roster, so I'm sure they will at least discuss the availability of Thompkins to see if they feel he can improve the talent level on the roster. One item of note with regard to this subject is that Rodney Smith was released by the Vikings in advance of last week's game against Green Bay and was signed by the Cleveland Browns, so if the Vikings wanted to replace Smith's spot on the receiver depth chart this week they could take a long look at Thompkins. But the Vikings could also replace Smith's spot with a player at a different position or with another receiver instead.
My question is not about what went wrong with Vikings against the Packers, but it is what went right with Vikings at Packers? -- Raj B. Sioux Falls, SD
Clearly, not enough went right against the Packers. But there were some bright spots. One was the play of our cornerbacks against Green Bay's top two receivers – Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. While Nelson broke loose for a 66-yard touchdown, that was his lone catch of the game and he came into the game leading the NFL in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Cobb had just three catches for 34 yards on the night, although one of his was for a touchdown, as well. Overall, I thought Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson played well and they've been solid over the past two weeks, a good sign as the Vikings prepare for a Lions offense that loves to move the ball through the air.