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Besides overall improved health, what do you feel our new offensive line's strengths will be for the 2017 season? -- Phillip Taylor
Durability, for one. Riley Reiff has missed only three games over the past four seasons and Mike Remmers didn’t miss a game as a starter for Carolina the past two seasons. If those trends continue, that alone will be a major upgrade compared to what this team went through last season. I also like the versatility of this group. Both Reiff and Remmers have played both left and right tackle, Joe Berger can play all three interior spots, Jeremiah Sirles can play three spots and third-round pick Pat Elflein played both guard and center at Ohio State. Finally, I like this group’s athleticism and ability to put blocks on defenders at the second level and in space.
Besides Laquon Treadwell, which wide receiver is standing out in OTAs so far? -- Jermaine @LYRCH21
If you’d let me choose Kyle Rudolph, he’d be my answer. He’s obviously listed as a tight end, but I love how he’s looked catching the ball from Sam Bradford this offseason. But if you’re going to be a stickler with the rules, I’ll lean toward Michael Floyd and Jarius Wright. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to seeing him play well as a member of another team, but I’m still dealing with the novelty affect when I see Floyd out there catching passes for our team. He’s a physical, big-bodied target who can help everywhere on the field and who should be a physical presence as a run blocker, too. Wright is just so versatile and he always seems to be doing something good when the ball goes his way. He’s also one of my favorite personalities on the team.
Choosing Rudy, Floyd and Wright is not to take anything away from how our two leading returning receivers – Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen – have looked. Diggs and Thielen have been on point this offseason, too, but I thought it’d be fun to talk about a few other targets in this space.
Mackensie Alexander didn’t get much time on the field last year, but nonetheless I’m a big fan of his. Seems like a smart, talented and humble guy. I know he’s expected to compete for the starting nickel cornerback position this year, but I haven’t seen much footage of him through OTAs. How’s he looking -- Paul Santa Barbara, CA
Alexander hasn’t been the only one taking snaps with the first-team defense at nickel cornerback, but from my standpoint he’s looked improved when he’s been given those opportunities. Head coach Mike Zimmer stated earlier this offseason that he’ll have the chance to win that job, and I think we’ll know a lot more about his prospects for doing so once we get to Mankato and the pads come on. Athletically, he has the ability to play. But there’s more to it than athleticism and movement skills. This will be a position battle to watch during training camp. The good news is that Terence Newman is in the fold if something happens to Alexander’s ability to play inside.
Keeping Terence Newman was a detriment to Trae Waynes. He’s not the future. Waynes and Laquon Treadwell are no different…still almost like rookies. Wasted first-round picks. How do you expect them to contribute if they aren’t put out on the field? -- Alvin Miranda
Wrong. Having Newman on the roster these past three seasons (and hopefully in 2017) has been a boon for every defensive back on the roster and especially for the young ones like Waynes, it’s been an advantage for Zimmer, and it’s been a benefit for the entire defense and the locker room. He’s a consummate pro, he knows Zim’s defense better than any other player and, according to Pro Football Focus, he’s as good a cornerback as there is in the NFL, even at his advanced age.
But Paul does make a good point that both Waynes and Treadwell may have had their development stifled a bit by not playing in games as much as some other rookies. That will change this year because both guys have a chance to earn prominent roles this season.
Is there anyone in the trenches who is surprising you throughout the OTAs? -- Blake Dufner Richmond, MN
You have to take this with a grain of salt because all we’ve seen is practices with players in shorts and helmets. It’s a whole other level of evaluation and observation when the pads come on. With that being said, undrafted rookie free agent DE Tashawn Bower has impressed and I think DT Shamar Stephen appears to be in good form.