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Monday Morning Mailbag: Rookies Stepping Up, Defense's Slow Start, Preparing For Redskins On A Short Week

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I know the improvement of the offense parallels the improvement of the offensive line. How much have Brian O’Neill and Garrett Bradbury improved? How important is Josh Kline? How would you define our offensive linemen?
-- Gerald Goblirsch

Words I would use to define or describe the Vikings offensive linemen are determined, smart and tough. They aren’t the biggest group, but they battle hard every snap of every game and they have consistently found ways to block talented defensive fronts this season. They are a group that is still growing, too, largely because of the two youngsters Gerald mentioned in his question. Bradbury and O’Neill are improving all the time right now. They are both young enough that you can safely say neither is close to a finished product and both are absorbing and benefitting greatly from the tutelage of offensive line coach Rick Dennison. Lastly, Kline is important to this group because he’s been plugged in as the starter since he was signed in free agency and there’s no question that continuity is as important as anything to the offensive line, so Kline’s inclusion is important every week.

I was surprised how many points the defense allowed. But the offense showed up when needed. I love our depth everywhere – Bisi Johnson for Adam Thielen and getting the tight ends more involved. Skol!
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

Give a lot of credit to the coaches and the scheme on offense. The Vikings had a great plan and the players – all of them – were ready to execute. Johnson scored his first career touchdown, Kyle Rudolph found the end zone for the first time this year and CJ Ham got loose in the flat for a touchdown catch. The game plan was well constructed.

As for the Lions offense, it is coordinated by Darrell Bevell, who’s been to a pair of Super Bowls and won one of them while he was with Seattle. The triggerman is Matthew Stafford, who is obviously very good. So I’m not surprised the Lions found a way to score, but I do agree the amount they scored (21) in the first half was a touch surprising. The good news is the Vikings defense made adjustments and settled down in the second half, surrendering only nine points.

We have a short week this week against a down-and-out Redskins team in prime time. What do we need to do to not be overconfident and to not overlook what seems to be a sure thing (a win vs the Redskins)? Thanks and Skol!
-- Rizwan Majeed
Wayne, NJ

The short week should actually help guard against overconfidence. There isn’t time for anyone in the Vikings building to sit around and feel good about themselves. Kickoff against the Redskins will only be three days away by the time the players arrive back at TCO Performance Center for work on Monday afternoon. Also, believe me, head coach Mike Zimmer is, shall we say, efficient at letting the guys know they aren’t perfect. He’ll have a list of things for them to improve and he’ll expect them to do it in short order.

Here's a shout out to the Vikings personnel behind the scenes, such as the scouting department, lesser-known coaches and the rest of the front office. Amazing job so far this season and especially during the offseason. This team has looked incredible and the depth has played outstanding. Trust me, your hard work hasn't gone unnoticed to us fans!
-- Nate Kern
Mankato, MN

Well said! Look at the contributions by the Vikings rookie class. From Garrett Bradbury along the offensive line to skill position players such as Bisi Johnson, Alexander Mattison and Irv Smith, Jr., rookies are stepping up and helping. This is a credit to the scouting staff for identifying these talented players and to the assistant coaches for developing them and teaching them the scheme. The personnel staff found a way to calm down the special teams situation by trusting their draft pick long snapper and veteran kicker and then by finding a veteran punter who could also hold.

With it being such a short week, can you tell us how the team prepares with so few days? Do they practice Monday - Wednesday or do they get a day off?
-- Nate Atkins

The players will come back to work at some point on Monday to being their work for the Redskins. The coaching staff probably got a jump on preparations for the Redskins late last week and they resumed that prep as soon as they got back to the building on Sunday night following the trip back from Detroit. It’s taxing on teams to get ready for a Thursday night game following a Sunday game, which is why most team are only required to do it once per season. But both teams are dealing with the abbreviated prep time and both teams will have to show up on Sunday to play.

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