Monday Morning Mailbag: Smith's Place Among NFL's Elite, Cousins' Chemistry With The Offense, More

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Why do you think Harrison Smith underrated by others even though stats prove he’s been the best all-around safety in the NFL?
--
Chase D.
Great Falls, MT

I don’t know if or why Smith would be underrated by folks outside the building, but I do know that inside the building he’s held in the highest regard. That matters much more than what is said about him by people outside the building. In our interview with Mike Zimmer from his ranch a week before training camp, the Vikings head coach mentioned Smith by name when I asked him what it was like to coach players who were like extensions of the coaching staff on the field. And if you ask Smith’s teammates about him, they will also rave about his ability, leadership and toughness. So just forget about where he lands on the NFL Top 100 Players list and forget about what people on TV say about him. Just know that in the Vikings building, there is nothing but respect and admiration for the Hitman.

Who do you have leading us in sacks this year?
-- Jerunek Morris

A popular answer to this question would be Danielle Hunter, who led the club last season with 14.5. That was 9.0 more than the next closes defender, who was Everson Griffen with 5.5. But I won’t be surprised if Griffen jumps up again this season and recaptures his place as the Vikings sack king. Remember, he missed five games last season and the four seasons before that his sack totals were 13.0, 8.0, 10.5 and 12.0.

With Mike Hughes and Holton Hill both unavailable in the near future and with the secondary frequently tested beyond three top cornerbacks, where should fans be looking for that next cornerback or two after Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander? Skol!*
-- Jeff
Sacramento, CA
*

The practice fields during training camp is where you should be looking. With Hughes still coming back from his knee injury and Hill looking at an eight-game suspension to begin the regular season, there is opportunity for roster spots for the Vikings young cornerbacks and the practice fields are where these players must earn the trust of the coaching staff. Rookie 7th-round draft pick Kris Boyd is a name to watch. Fellow Texas product Duke Thomas, a two-year veteran, is another name to watch. And don’t sleep on Marcus Epps potentially training at nickel corner as well as safety.

Do you believe Kirk Cousins has enough chemistry with the rest of the Vikings to make it to the playoffs?
-- Jay Ausland
Duluth, MN

I don’t have any concerns about the chemistry between Cousins and anyone else on the offense. This is the second time around the block for Cousins with his new team and many of the skill position players are returning from last year’s club. About the only significant new piece to worry about from a chemistry standpoint is new center Garrett Bradbury, but I asked Cousins about that during a pre-camp interview and the quarterback didn’t sound concerned in the least about developing a rapport with his rookie center.

Thanks again for all of your excellent coverage of the Vikings! I hope your summer is going well. I am excited for the potential impact Hercules Mata'afa can make for our defense this year. How is he looking in training camp so far and do you see him making an impact for us this year? Thanks again!
--
Tom Anderson
Gordon, NE

Mata’afa stood out as a pass rusher at Washington State and his ability to provide a rush from the middle of the defensive line in sub packages could be appealing to coach Zimmer. But with the depth the Vikings have up front on defense, you’re going to need to be good at more than just one thing in order to make the team and contribute. So Mata’afa will need to continue impressive as a pass rusher as well as show some chops against the run in order to earn a roster spot and play on Sundays. I’m not doubting Mata’afa’s ability to do that, I’m just also saying this is an extremely deep position group.

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