Monday Morning Mailbag: 'Super Bowl or Bust' Mentality, Position With Least Amount of Depth, More

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What have you observed from Gary Kubiak during these OTAs? How engaged is he on the field during practice? Do you see him more involved in weekly planning or daily execution? I think he may be one of the most important additions the Vikings acquired.
-- Brian Grow
Dyersburg, TN

Coach Kubiak is definitely engaged on the practice field, but it’s clear that Kevin Stefanski is the one running the show for the offense and there’s no one who understands more about how important that is than Kubiak, who has been both a head coach and an offensive coordinator during his career. While I’m sure Kubiak can contribute significantly during practice and games on the field, my sense is his influence will be as profound, if not more profound, in the game planning rooms with coaches and the meeting rooms with quarterbacks and other players. In addition, Kubiak can also provide assistance to head coach Mike Zimmer on a variety of matters given his experience being a (Super Bowl-winning) head coach in this League.

How is Mike Zimmer going to help relieve the players from the "Super Bowl or bust" tension? Players tend to be at their best when they're feeling carefree with the right amount (not too much) stress.
-- Josh Imset
Whittier, CA

The goal is to win the Super Bowl. There’s no expectation the media or anyone outside the building can put on the team that is a greater expectation than what the team has for itself. So from that standpoint, the Super Bowl or bust mantra is not one that strikes anyone inside the building with any significant. To that end, coach Zimmer has always stressed to the players that what is said or written about them is not what matters. What matters is what’s done on the practice field, in the meeting rooms, in the locker room and on game days. As long as a team has that focus and mentality, then the tension will be a healthy tension and players have no reason not to be at their best.

Do you think Hercules Mata’afa has a chance to become a starter for the defense by Week 1?
-- Quantez Harris

It will not surprise me if Mata’afa is a contributor at some point this year, but a starter in the base defense for Week 1 would be an upset at this stage. The Vikings return three starters – defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter and defensive tackle Linval Joseph – and they signed Shamar Stephen in free agency, who figures to hold down a starter/prominent role, as well. After those four, Mata’afa is in a group that also includes Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Armon Watts and Stephen Weatherly, among others, who will compete to win jobs on the 53-man roster.

What position do we have the LEAST amount of depth in?
-- Joe Bratten
Cottage Grove, MN

The roster is at 90 players right now, which is nearly double what it will be once we hit September and the regular season begins. That makes it hard to identify spots that don’t have depth. The position I thought of while reading this question was wide receiver. The Vikings return arguably the best duo in the League in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but after that it’s thin in terms of returning contributors. The reason this position group came to mind, though, is because while this group may lack returning production after Diggs/Thielen, it actually has an abundance of athleticism and youth…aka potential. Chad Beebe flashed some promise in limited appearances last season, there are two draft picks in the fold, Jeff Badet has dangerous speed and deep-threat ability, Jordan Taylor is a veteran who knows well many parts the offensive system and Laquon Treadwell will be fighting tooth and nail for his job. This will be a fun group to watch during training camp and the preseason because it appears that three-to-four spots are wide open.

With the Vikings needing a new punt returner, what do you think of the incredibly fast Jeff Badet? Could he be a great replacement for Marcus Sherels given his speed? Skol!
-- Nate Atkins

Yes, he could be. But he’s not the only one. When healthy, Mike Hughes is a great option at punt returner. Beebe will compete for reps in this spot, as will fellow receiver Jordan Taylor, among others. For the first time in a long time, the punt return job is wide open for competition.

Do you believe eliminating one preseason game will hurt the quality of the game once the regular season begins?
-- Kylie Kulak
Fresno, CA

No. I don’t have an opinion on whether the League should keep it at four preseason games or reduce the preseason, but I do have the opinion that coaches and players are so dedicated to their crafts and so good at their jobs that reducing the preseason will not have an adverse impact on the product of regular season football. These guys are talented professionals who’ve overcome adversity and long odds all along their way to the highest level of the sport, so losing a preseason game or two will not take away from the product. What’s more important than the number of preseason games is the amount of time the coaches have to work with the players during the offseason and training camp. So long as that amount of time is maintained or even increased, I believe the regular season product will remain top notch.

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