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Monday Morning Mailbag: Using Peterson, McKinnon Together?

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With the preseason coming up and the possibility of having Adrian and the Jet (Jerick McKinnon) in the backfield at the same time, would this be a good time to use AP as a decoy and give Jet some targets in the passing game? And vice versa? This would give us two very explosive running and receiving backs, plus Matt Asiata to be mixed in for protection. -- Willie Jones

Both Peterson and McKinnon are playmakers who can help the offense in their own way(s), and so you'll see the Vikings use them both in a variety of ways, perhaps even in combination from time to time. More times than not, though, my sense is you'll see one of them on the field rather than both. Having them both on the field simultaneously does give the defense two explosive playmakers to deal with, but only one of them can have the ball at once. That means the other one has to be a decoy or a blocker, and there are going to be times where it's more beneficial to have another blocker out there – Zach Line or a tight end – than it does to have a decoy.

With the pads finally on, how have the offensive and defensive lines looked since they are allowed full contact? Also, which position group stands out the most? -- Julien Faison

There have been some good battles up front since the team started having padded practices. The offensive line is still experimenting with some combinations while the defensive line is benefiting from continuity, so that may explain at least in part why the defensive line has looked so good to this point; they are also a really good group of players. It should be noted, though, that the first-team offensive line score three consecutive times in the first goal line period of training camp, which is an impressive feat considering the talent along the defensive line. These two groups have gone back and forth with great intensity and it's going to help both sides down the road. As for a position that's stood out, I'd say the defensive line and the linebackers can both stake claim. There is great continuity, depth and talent within both groups.

What is the status on return of DT Shamar Stephen? He played very well as a rookie and will give big a boost to an already strong defensive line. -- Prakash Pyakurel Nepal

Stephen has looked good in his return from an injury that cost him all but the first five games of last season. Without Stephen for much of last season, the Vikings saw both Tom Johnson and Kenrick Ellis step up. Now, all three of them are in the fold and backing up starters Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph. In fact, with Floyd held out of last Saturday evening's practice, it was Stephen who took the bulk of the first-team reps, so I'd say things are looking good for him as he prepares for his third season.

From what I have seen watching the training camp highlights, it appears FB Zach Line is having a tremendous camp from running the ball at the goal line and in blocking drills. Has anyone else who doesn't usually get the spotlight shined to you during the early stages of camp? -- Marshal Phillips

Charles Johnson was injured for much of last year and wasn't in the limelight much, but he's done some great things so far in training camp. I also think Zac Kerin, Jabari Price, Shamar Stephen and Trae Waynes have had some good moments.

How will Zimmer and Spielman decide who to keep on the roster when the choice is between a more experienced player who has nearly realized his full potential versus a raw talent who likely has a higher ceiling but hasn't reached it yet? -- Janet

This is a dilemma teams face on a regular basis and one that must be solved several times at the end of the preseason when rosters are reduced from 90 players to 53. From my experience, teams don't always side with one over the other – it comes down to a case-by-case basis. A lot of times a young player with potential will be preferred over an aging veteran who is trying to hold on, but the one thing that can work in favor of the veteran is that teams have the practice squad as a mechanism to keep both players. You can keep the veteran on the roster and then waive the young player with the hope that no other team will sign that young player and then you can sign them to the practice squad and continue to develop that player until he's ready or needed. Ultimately, the goal is to blend the right amount of experience and veteran leadership with a lot of youth and potential so as to give the current team its best chance to win while also setting up the roster to have success for years to come.

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