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Monday Morning Mailbag: Where Must The 'D' Improve Most?

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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What position or group on defense will need to improve the most over last year to have a shot at launching the defense into a top 5 ranked defense this year? -- Chad Bebault

Head coach Mike Zimmer will demand improvement across the board on defense, but if you wanted to look at one particular facet I would begin with the run defense. I would start there because an improvement in that facet, especially on 1st down, will have a trickledown effect on the rest of the defense. In 2014, the Vikings allowed opponents to rush for 4+ on 1st down 49.0% of the time and they yielded 4.91 yards per rush on 1st down, with both numbers ranking third worst in the League. If the Vikings can improve the rushing defense, a lot of good things can happen. Being able to stop the run with a seven-man front will give Zimmer a lot of options in terms of what he can do with the secondary and it will generally help the defense get off the field on 3rd downs.

I am extremely excited with the speed upgrades we have gotten at WR since Zimmer and (Norv) Turner have taken over! Do you think there is any chance they will use Cordarrelle Patterson in the same manner Green Bay used Randall Cobb by motioning him to the HB position and letting him take off? With Patterson's size, speed and agility it would be another weapon in an already amazing offense. -- Guy Hempelman

Prescott, Arizona

The Vikings used Patterson in this manner on occasion last season and it produced mixed results, and I do anticipate the Vikings continuing to move Patterson around the formation to maximize his opportunity for touches and to try to generate mismatches. Having Adrian Peterson back in the fold will make this tactic more effective because it will provide Turner with opportunities in play calling to exploit mismatches created by the defense overcompensating to stop Peterson and leaving too few or the wrong defenders on Patterson.

View some of the best images of the Vikings offensive line from the offseason program.

Last season our offensive line dealt with a lot of injuries and moving around of players. Who do you think will be the starting five this season? -- Austin

Gilman, MN 

Right now my guess would be: Matt Kalil at LT, Brandon Fusco at LG, John Sullivan at C, TJ Clemmings at RG and Phil Loadholt at RT. That opinion is subject to change, of course, as the Vikings evaluate whether or not to move Fusco to the left side and then decipher the winner of the RG position battle among Clemmings, Joe Berger, David Yankey and others during training camp and the preseason.

Our depth at tight end is very deep. Personally, I can't make up my mind between Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford. But I think I give the edge to Ford because of his offensive advantage. What do you think of our tight ends and who do you think will be cut from the 53 man roster out of the tight ends? -- Cody Eastman

Naples, FL

The Vikings have a good group of TEs heading into training camp and I anticipate there will be some tough decisions that have to be made once the regular season rolls around and the roster must be reduced to 53 players. Last year at the 53-man cut, the Vikings held on to three players at the position. Given his versatility on both offense and special teams, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Ellison doesn't make it. MyCole Pruitt was just drafted and impressed during the offseason program, and Kyle Rudolph is healthy and looking better than ever. That's three right there, and we haven't even discussed free agent signing Brandon Bostick or Chase Ford, both of whom are worth a roster spot somewhere in the League. Will the Vikings keep more than three this year? And if they do, who will finish camp ahead on the depth chart? Those are questions that will be fun to answer over the next six weeks or so.

With so much focus and questions centered on and around the battles for the open starting positions, I would like to hear your thoughts on a couple of positions that you feel we are set for a very long time. -- Chat Vang

I wouldn't say the Vikings are "set" anywhere because that makes it sound like there is no work to do there and we all know that complacency is the enemy. But a few spots on the roster where I love the depth are at CB, RB and WR. I believe the Vikings could manage an injury to a top player at each of these positions and I also will not be surprised if a name we aren't talking about now emerges by the end of August at any of these positions.

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