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Monday Morning Mailbag: Secondary Up To The Challenge?

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Zimmer is going to go nuts after this game with the Giants. We are now the favorites, but answer this: How do we cover their three wide receivers who are this great? Who do we have to cover Odell Beckham, Jr.? Eli Manning will not hold the ball like Cam Newton did. I see trouble for our Vikes. -- Chris Kulak

There's no question the Giants have a talented trio of playmakers at wide receiver with Beckham, Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. Manning is known for getting the ball out of his hands quickly, too, so Chris has raised some legitimate concerns for the Vikings defense heading into the game Monday night. Defending a passing attack as good as the Giants requires all 11 defenders; it's not just about the cornerbacks. Pass defense is about the combination of rush and coverage, so it's important for pass rushers to pressure Manning into quick throws and it's important for the defenders in coverage to play their responsibilities tightly so that the pass rushers can have an extra beat to get home. Given how well the Vikings defense has played for most of the season, this is a good match and I'm excited to see how it unfolds.

What do you think our plan is to contain explosive pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon? -- Pablo Amaya Riverside, CA

Sometimes the best way to neutralize a good pass rush is to run the football well. If you're running the ball well, then you're likely on schedule with the down and distance and that, in turn, reduces the amount of your obvious passing situations, which is when the pass rush is most effective. Also, a productive rushing attack will give pass rushers pause at the snap because they have to play the run rather than simply pinning their ears back and focusing on rushing the passer. Other ways to neutralize the pass rush include draws and screens and use of the quick game (no huddle, hurry up, short routes that don't require a lot of time to develop).

On the offensive line, do you feel that everyone is still trying to adjust to one another and once they do the run game might open up a bit? Outside of Joe Berger, everyone else is new or in a new position. Pass protection has been solid, but you can see the miscommunication from time to time. Just wondering your thoughts on that aspect of the offensive line. -- Travis Rothstein La Crosse, WI

I would imagine there is still some adjusting going on. Even before the injuries to Alex Boone and Matt Kalil, the five starters didn't have much experience playing together because Berger and John Sullivan were rotating with the first team as were TJ Clemmings and Andre Smith at right tackle. Then, a starting five was determined and two games into the season Kalil was placed on the Reserve/Injured list and Boone left the Carolina game before halftime. Needless to say, there have been a lot of moving parts with the offensive line and that does not help that group gain synergy. The good news is the Vikings have gotten off to a 3-0 start despite scoring just two offensive touchdowns and the offensive line has a chance to go out on Monday night against the Giants and take a step forward as a group. Coach Zimmer commented earlier in the week that the running game was close to clicking last week in Carolina, which was encouraging to hear and is reason to be optimistic that on Monday night we'll see that group improve and open up some holes in the running game.

Danielle Hunter has scored nine points in the first three games. Which Vikings defensive player has scored the most points in a season? Can Danielle match or exceed that mark? -- Mark Johnson

Technically, the Vikings single-season scoring record for defensive players is held by Jim Christopherson, who scored 61 points in 1962. But, he was a linebacker who also served as the kicker, so I don't know that he would be the true record holder for defensive scoring since most of his points came on special teams. If you take Christopherson out of the picture, the record for defensive points scored in a season is 18 and that mark is shared by four individuals – Ed Sharockman in 1970, Anthony Parker and Dewayne Washington in 1994, and Jimmy Hitchcock in 1998. Hunter actually has eight points scored (a touchdown and a safety), so the most efficient way for him to set the new record would be to score two more defensive touchdowns to get to 20.

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