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Monday Morning Mailbag: The New-Look Offensive Line

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So many comments have been made about the large number of competitors along the offensive line. The assumption is that the best players will win out and make the unit much stronger than last year. What if many of the battles end up where the winning player is not really much better than average and the end result does not improve the unit at all? Quantity over quality has been tried before in many sports. Why is this Viking situation so much different? -- Bob Holan

The difference is the Vikings are not relying solely on quantity to improve. Yes, several new players have been added to the offensive line, but they are also quality players. Two players with a combined 132 games of starting experience – LG Alex Boone and RT Andre Smith – were added in free agency. In addition, the Vikings welcome back four players who started all 16 games last year plus a starting center (John Sullivan) who is coming back from injury. Throw in another draft pick – fourth-rounder Willie Beavers – and you can see how the team has added quality players to the position to create competition.

I have been curious about how well Adrian Peterson will do this season because of how the running game is setup. Teddy seems to operate better from the shotgun but Adrian looks more comfortable running with the QB under center. How will the Vikings deal with this imbalance in playing styles? -- Matthew Cartwright

The Vikings worked very hard on improving all aspects of the running game this offseason, and that includes managing the quality of runs in both gun and under center formations. Coach Zimmer even said he watched a cutup of Adrian Peterson's runs from last year to develop a deeper understanding of what worked well and what needs improvement. My sense is Peterson is starting to feel more comfortable running from the gun formation; this is a good thing. I also think it's important for Bridgewater to improve from under center, just as Peterson is trying to improve with running from the gun. Ultimately, I believe you'll see the Vikings take more snaps from the gun than from under center, but I also think being under center will still be an important part of the offense and I think Peterson will have more productive runs from the gun in 2016 than he had in 2015.

As good as the Vikings are supposed to be, how do you keep a team grounded, humble and hungry? -- John McGuire

This is one aspect of being a head coach that is no often thought of, but it is very important. I give a lot of credit to Mike Zimmer for the way he's tried to manage his team's psyche over the past two-plus seasons. The Vikings have had a lot of positive publicity of late and they are a team many in the public are buying into. Coach Zimmer himself has lauded the team for its collective work ethic. At the same time, I'm sure coach Zimmer will counteract some of that by reminding his team of the loss in Week 1 to San Francisco last year or the home regular season losses to Seattle and Green Bay. Coach Zimmer also explained that he's given his team 12 things to improve upon here at camp and he's told the defense they need to be better in certain situations. Coach Zimmer does a nice job of drawing the balance between building his team up but also breaking them down to keep them grounded and provide them landmarks for improvement.

While playing on special teams, what skills do young WRs and CBs such as Adam Thielen and Trae Waynes learn that they can apply to their respective positions? -- Larry

I'm sure there are specific techniques one learns on special teams that can also apply to defense and offense. But aside from ability and technique, the willingness to put forth 100% effort is also something a young player can learn from competing for a special teams to then apply in trying to earn a role on defense/offense.

Even though players such as Brian Robison, Terence Newman and Chad Greenway offer great leadership, they may not have a lot of time left. With the nice depth at most positions, could a younger player put one of those veterans on the roster bubble? -- Randy Schlingmann

Yes, a younger player can most certainly put an established veteran on the roster bubble. I don't think Coach Zimmer promises jobs to anyone just because they are veterans. But he also doesn't promise jobs to anyone just because they are young. He wants the best players to make the roster and get on the field, regardless of age or experience. There's no question that age and experience factor into the evaluation of a player, but those factors are not the be-all, end-all of that evaluation process.

I haven't heard much about Joe Berger during the offseason program or the opening of training camp. Pro Football Focus had him ranked as one of the best centers in the NFL last year. Will he be competing at center or right guard, and wouldn't he be a prime candidate for the most underrated Viking? -- Sparky Malmberg

There's no question that Berger would be a prime candidate as one of the most underrated Vikings. He stepped into the starting lineup at center in 2015 when John Sullivan was unavailable and he played extraordinarily well given the circumstances. He's also a player who can compete for time and a spot on the depth chart at both left and right guard, and he can play a role on special teams. Berger is a player who brings a lot of roster value to the team.

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