Monday Morning Mailbag: Roster Cuts, Newman's New Role, Opener vs. 49ers

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I noticed on the 53-man roster that we kept five running backs and only five receivers. This was interesting to me and I was wondering why they didn't keep four backs and five wide receivers.
-- Derek Dotinga
Oakdale, CA

The 53-man roster is a giant puzzle with a lot of factors. It’s also a season-long puzzle because the team will make roster moves almost daily based on performance, injuries, players who become available, etc. As of today, the Vikings have five backs and five receivers, but at any point now the Vikings can demote one of the backs to the practice squad and promote one of the two receivers who are on the practice squad. I’d say five is within the average range for both running backs and receivers on NFL rosters across the League.

With San Francisco’s new and improved offense, what can the Vikings defense do to outperform them?
-- Justin Vetter
Illinois

Even without Jerick McKinnon, who was lost for the season with a knee injury, I expect the 49ers to come into U.S. Bank Stadium with a physical mentality on offense and try to run the ball. They did a nice job in their third preseason game – against the Indianapolis Colts – of establishing the running game and then using play action and bootlegs off of that rushing success. Their use of fullbacks and tight ends was creative and multiple, which puts pressure on the defense to be sound in its fundamentals and keys. It will be a good test for the Vikings defense but I expect they’ll be up to snuff. The keys will be knowing alignments and assignments, being physical, being able to get off blocks and then making tackles. If the Vikings do that on defense, the game should go the right way.

What do you think about the chemistry between Kirk Cousins and the Vikings receivers and running backs?
-- Kaj Overlie
Northfield, MN

It’s coming along well. I imagine it will only get better as the season wears on and they spend more time practicing together and then playing in games together. There’s something about battling together in a game that fortifies and enhances chemistry and synergy. Having the entire offseason program in addition to training camp and the preseason was a big boost to this process, too. Vikings playmakers developed a rapport quickly with Case Keenum last season despite not working much with him during the offseason and training camp; Keenum ran with the second team for much of that time and didn’t work with first team on a consistent basis until Sam Bradford was injured after the opening game of the regular season. Given how well this group of playmakers adjust midseason to working with Keenum, I have a feeling chemistry will not be a problem with Cousins going forward.

Once Pat Elflein returns, do you think he may be installed at a guard position assuming Brad Jones does a good job at center and will have developed a better rapport with Cousins by that time?
-- Myles Swenson

That’s certainly not my call and I wouldn’t rule anything out at this stage, but my sense is Elflein will remain the center once he’s back in action. Jones has played both guard and center in the NFL, so it makes sense to ask him to slide out to guard so that Elflein can play his natural position.

Do you think that we can make a deep playoff run again after a blowout in last year's NFC Championship Game? Not usually the case.
-- Joseph Sexe

Yes. But we should probably take this one game at a time. The playoffs don’t begin for 17 weeks, and the Vikings have a lot of business to take care of before they can think about a return to the postseason. I can assure you of this, though: Mike Zimmer has made sure this team’s mindset is focused on what’s ahead, not on what happened in Philadelphia last January. The 2018 Vikings are a different team than the 2017 Vikings. The quarterback is new, the offensive coordinator is new, Mike Hughes and Sheldon Richardson were added, changes have been made to the offensive line, etc. The 2018 Vikings are not here to clean up anything from 2017. They are here to achieve their own goals.

Some hard decisions this weekend. Sad to see Brian Robison go, but I understand it. I really like what we did, keeping Mike Boone and Roc Thomas. I like keeping all the defensive backs, and then making Terence Newman a coach. I’m hopeful we can sneak Chad Beebe and Ifeadi Odenigbo onto the practice squad. Take care and keep up the good work, Mike!
-- Craig Rasmussen

This is always a hard few days on the NFL calendar. And add to that the heavy hearts that we all have with the passing of Fred Zamberletti. Through it all, though, a new season is upon us and a lot of players who worked their tails off for the last several months were paid off with a roster spot. Beebe did make it to the Vikings practice squad, but Odenigbo did not. He was claimed by the Cleveland Browns and will be placed on their 53-man roster.

With Terence Newman now a Vikings coach, is it still possible he could be reinstated as a player if the injury bug hits our defensive backfield?
-- Joel Hanson
Syracuse, UT

Newman announced his retirement, so returning to the field is not an option unless a series of extraordinary events happens. I guess I never like to rule anything completely out, but the League does not allow teams to stash players on their coaching staffs or in any other way. The move of Newman to the coaching staff is one with honest intentions as he begins a new phase of his football life. The Vikings have benefited from having Newman on the field the last few seasons and now they’re fortunate to retain his experience and football acumen by hiring him as an assistant coach.

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