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Atlanta and New England are two of the three teams to have their offensive lines play together the entire season. We had nine different rotations I think. That hurt. We need to rehab our injured, reevaluate what we finished with and restock. We do not need a complete overhaul, but the offensive line needs the most attention. -- Gerald Goblirsch
Good perspective, Gerald. I agree there are some building blocks already in place along the offensive line and that there's no need to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the offensive line. Getting and staying healthy to promote continuity is certainly as important a part of the process of improving the offensive line as any other. I still do expect to see some changes in personnel up front, but I also look forward to the development of some of the returning players, which should lead to improved play for the entire group.
The Falcons were 5-0 last season before the rug was pulled out from under them and they finished 8-8. Look where they're going now. Maybe the Vikings are following a blueprint. -- Steven Terry
I love the exercise of pulling apart the teams who succeeded this year and applying the lessons learned to the Vikings to see ways they can generate improvement and emulate that success next year. The first two submissions in today's mailbag have done just that. I've seen several people draw this exact comparison – the Falcons jump from 2015 to 2016 compared to the Vikings in 2016 and what they could do in 2017. There are some similarities, yes, but the Vikings and Falcons are also two different teams in terms of style of play. The Falcons are an offensive juggernaut with a defense that does enough to complement. The Vikings would be characterized as more of a defensive team with an offense that needs to improve but could complement in the same way the Falcons defense did enough to support the offense this season. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how you do it, it just matters whether or not you get it done. The Falcons have gotten it done to this point, and they can serve as a model for the Vikings in how to rebound from a mediocre to season.
Lots of people will be talking about the offensive line this offseason, but what about the secondary? Terence Newman is 38, Captain Munnerlyn is getting older, and we still need safety help. Do you see any good options in the offseason? -- Royce Lavoie
If the Vikings have to replace Munnerlyn and/or Newman, the first place to look is internally, starting with Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes. They were taken with second-round and first-round picks, respectively, and the coaching staff has put a lot of time into each of their development. Waynes has one year of experience on Alexander, so he's perhaps more prepared to step in, but I wouldn't rule either of them out of playing a significant amount in 2017. The same is true at safety, where youngsters such as Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse should have the upper hand when it comes to challenging Andrew Sendejo for playing time. I'm sure there will be options in both the draft and free agency when it comes to the secondary, but ideally a team will see its own developmental players rise to the occasion.
How important is a 1st-round pick considering our last two 1st-rounders played very little for us in their first seasons? -- Jim Ernst
Draft choices, even 1st-rounders, should be viewed as projects and potential building blocks, not necessarily plug-and-play pieces who can come in and make a big difference in their first season. Every season we do see draft picks across the League come in and impress right away, but that is more the exception than the rule. More times than not, draft picks are going to steadily improve as their career progresses. First-round picks should be highly valued assets, but the expectations for those players should be tempered and those expectations should be more long-term than they are short-term.
Do you believe Jayron Kearse has the talent to be a starter in the future? And what are some things he needs to work on to be a starter? -- Zachary Zweber
I don't believe Kearse would've made Mike Zimmer's roster as a rookie and also started a game as a rookie if he didn't have the talent to one day be a starter. The question is: When will that day be? We don't know right now, but that is something we'll find out over time. As discussed in the first question today, Kearse is one player who has the opportunity to push Sendejo for a starting job in the Vikings 2017 secondary.
I am getting the feeling that our defense is overrated. Anthony Barr, Andrew Sendejo and Trae Waynes come immediately to mind. What is your take on this subject? Thanks for a great year on your part! Be well this offseason! -- Robert Bard
I don't get that feeling whatsoever. The Vikings defense is one of the best defenses in the NFL, and I think it will be that good or better in 2017. The three players Robert mentioned are no different than any other regular contributor on defense – they could do things better and there are plays they'd like to have back. But those three players have also had a lot of great moments and they've earned the trust of Zimmer, which is why they're on the field as much as they are. The Vikings had a six-quarter stretch this past season where they permitted 20% of their points allowed, but aside from that brief stretch they were the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL. I believe that six-quarter stretch is the exception, not the rule, and I believe we'll see that proven on the field in 2017.