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Monday Morning Mailbag: Rookies Looking The Part

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I thought overall the team looked good for the first preseason game, but definitely has a ways to go. My question is: Who do you think made the biggest strides in moving up the depth chart and who do you think lost some ground? -- Jeff Sanders Kirkwood, MO

The roster and depth chart decisions that will be made once the preseason concludes are complex ones that rely on a lot of factors, with the most important one being the body of work each player has built since the offseason program began in the spring. So I don't think anything that happens in one game is going to cause much change in the team's thinking. Plus, there isn't enough time to play everyone in every preseason game, so playing time in the first preseason game isn't necessarily a glimpse for us into what the coaching staff is thinking for a depth chart. The RB position is a great example of that – CJ Ham saw a lot of action on Friday night while Jhurell Pressley didn't. Ham looked good in action, but it won't be surprising to see Pressley get more work this week against Seattle.

With all of that being said, I thought David Morgan and Laquon Treadwell looked great. I also thought both Trae Waynes and Mack Alexander did some good things. Coach Zimmer himself said on Sunday that, of the young guys vying for a spot at safety, Jayron Kearse played the best.

With Charles Johnson playing great and seeming to have great chemistry with Teddy in the deep passing game and with Stefon Diggs solid and speedy on the other side, why couldn't Laquon Treadwell be our starting slot receiver? Watching last Friday, he was so good in the middle of the field and we haven't heard much about Jarius Wright. -- Dustin

Treadwell could be a contributor at slot for the Vikings. But so could a number of others on the depth chart. Adam Thielen can work from the slot and he had a great 3rd-down reception the other night. Diggs could also slide inside to the slot and I also think both Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson can be worked into the mix. I agree that Treadwell looked good on Friday night and you want to continue building on that, but it was also just the first game and there is a long way to go before the Vikings have to start whittling things down. The best part about the whole situation is that the Vikings have built up some quality depth at WR and they'll have options as to how to deploy them.

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer (IG: vikingsphotog) from the Aug. 12 game against the Bengals.

Does it seem that coach Zimmer is going to be using more blitz packages because of the talent on the back side of the defense? And as fans, is there a surprise defensive player who we should be taking a harder look at? -- Tony Head

It's hard to say if the Vikings will be blitzing more this year or not. Blitz frequency depends on a variety of factors, from personnel strengths and weaknesses of the opponent to game situations such as down and distance, score and time remaining. Ultimately, though, coach Zimmer is known as an aggressive playcaller and the Vikings have second and third-level defenders who've been effective rushing the passer in the past, so I won't be surprised if the Vikings blitz as much as they did last year.

As far as a standout player who isn't talked about a lot, I think Eric Kendricks qualifies. He's had a great camp and he was also very good last season. On a defense where Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith get much of the attention, Kendricks is a guy who will make a lot of plays and could garner more attention for it in 2016.

I just came from training camp and Xavier Rhodes looks to become a shutdown corner. How well do you think the defense will perform against the pass this year? -- Larry Price

They have come a long way over the past two seasons and they have a good chance to make another significant jump forward in Year 3 under Zimmer. All starters in the secondary are back plus Waynes has demonstrated improvement entering his second year. On top of that, a few newcomers are providing competition and elevating the level of play. Another reason to anticipate improvement versus the pass this year is the Vikings should once again be a strong pass-rushing defense.

Brian Robison has been starting inside in the nickel package. Is he really a better pass rusher from the inside than Sharrif Floyd? Presumably they've both played on 1st & 2nd down, so it's not a case of B-Rob having fresher legs. -- Steve Houston, TX

Robison kicking inside on 3rd downs to rush the passer is just one look the team has been working into its sub packages. There are other looks in which Floyd remains on the field. Both Robison and Floyd are effective pass rushers and so the Vikings are fortunate to have some depth along the defensive line, especially in some of the pass rush packages they can deploy on passing downs.

Well, the team has got their work to do. I was a little worried as the first quarter was starting to look bad. But a win is a win and preseason is preseason. I was impressed with CJ Ham. He reminded me a little bit of Jerome Bettis with his hard running and being able to break through the Bengals defensive line. -- Steven Peterson

I know coach Zimmer mentioned that the team isn't anywhere close to being to where they need to be, but even with that said I thought there was a lot upon which to build. The way the first-team offense bounced back on its second drive was encouraging and it was great to see the offense execute well in the two-minute drill at the end of the half. Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke did some good things and several young defensive backs flashed a few times, including Waynes, Alexander and Kearse. I also though Ham looked good in the action he saw. I expect Pressley will get some more work this week, so that will be an interesting battle to watch unfold the rest of the preseason.

How will the coaches keep the team from being too fired up when they play their first home game against Green Bay? We can't have the same results like when they played the 49ers in prime time last year. What I heard was the Vikings were too fired up for that game and over pressed. What are your thoughts? -- John McGuirer Lone Pine, CA

I don't know that being too fired up was the problem for the Vikings in their Week 1 loss last year. I'd say it was more that San Francisco just played better than the Vikings on that night. For now, though, the Vikings focus needs to be on improving every day in practice and on getting ready to play Tennessee in Week 1. They can worry about Green Bay once Week 2 is here.

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