Monday Morning Mailbag: Who Starts Next To Linval?

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With all of the new defensive tackles we have drafted/signed, who do you see starting next to Linval Joseph? -- Mat Williams

This is a true position battle that will be waged from now through the end of training camp and the preseason. I believe it’s a wide open competition that will include returners Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson as well as newcomers such as fourth-round pick Jaleel Johnson and free agent signings Datone Jones and Will Sutton, among others. If three emerge from that group as strong potential contributors, that could allow the Vikings to use Shamar Stephen as a backup to Linval Joseph and really bulk up the position. I like the direction those two spots are going.

Who will return punts & kicks? -- Stuart Warner

Marcus Sherels remains on the roster and it’ll take a might good effort to wrestle that punt return role away from him. The kickoff return role, of course, is vacant with Cordarrelle Patterson’s departure via free agency. I know a lot of people look at rookie receivers Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley as possibilities, and that may be the case, but I don’t think people are giving Jerick McKinnon as much of a shot as he truly has of winning that role. I love the idea of McKinnon sliding into that spot, if he can demonstrate the ability to do it during the offseason program, training camp and the preseason.

What impact will Michael Floyd have on Laquon Treadwell beginning to progress? -- Jeff Borski

I don’t view the drafting of two receivers and the signing of Floyd as damning evidence that the team has lost faith in Treadwell. I believe Treadwell will be given every opportunity to improve and contribute in 2017 and I will not be surprised if he comes through. With that being said, Treadwell would be within reason to take note of the additions to the position and just add it to the list of motivations he has to take a major step forward in his second NFL season. The Vikings are going to roster and play the best players at each position and that decision will be based on current performance, not past circumstances such as draft pick status.

I binge watched the 2016 season. The Cowboys game was so close…a “perfect storm” game. Coach Zimmer out, players out, but the best defensive game all year. Do you think George Edwards could call more games? Thanks for all the updates. -- Steve Woodbury, MN

Yes, coach Edwards has the ability to be able to call games, but I don’t think there’s anyone better-suited for the job than coach Zimmer himself. Remember, coach Zimmer was around the entire week for game planning and practice preparation, so he deserves as much credit as anyone for how the defense played that night against the Cowboys. But, there’s also no question that coach Edwards is among those who definitely stepped up big in a tough spot with coach Zimmer unexpectedly unable to be at the game.

Do you see Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers as an improvement or simply a replacement of Matt Kalil and Brandon Fusco? -- Mark J. Bismarck ND

I see this as an apples-to-oranges type of question because Kalil missed 14 games and Fusco doesn’t play the same position as Reiff or Remmers; he played guard for the Vikings last year. Ultimately, yes I consider the signing of Reiff and Remmers to be an upgrade over what the Vikings had at offensive tackle for the duration of last season. The way I look at it is the Vikings were decimated by injuries last year along the offensive line and then they lost a starting left tackle in free agency. So to rebound from that by signing two guys who have long consecutive started streaks and who are instance starters is an aggressive and good way to respond. This also pushes several players who may have been candidates to be starters into backup roles, which increases your depth behind Reiff and Remmers.

Would you say most offensive line positions are kind of set? I wonder about Nick Easton and Rashod Hill – are those guys starter potential or backups? -- Dave Simons

I’d say the offensive line is not set. There should be some good competition for spots along the interior. Hill is an example of something I referenced in the answer right before this question – a player who could’ve competed to start if not for the signing of Reiff and Remmers but will now compete for a backup role since the two starters were added via free agency. A swing backup at offensive tackle is a valuable role to have on a roster, and Hill may be a guy who can develop into that type of player. Easton’s spot is interesting because of the selection of Pat Elflein in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Where the Vikings play Elflein will impact Easton’s arc for the season. If Elflein plays guard, then Easton is in line to compete with Joe Berger at center. If Elflein plays center, then it’ll be interesting to see what the Vikings do with Berger and Easton along the interior.

Do you see the Vikings taking a look at Orlando Franklin? He is a huge guy to put at guard and I believe Vikings still could use some help on the offensive line. -- Ben Shakopee, MN

Yes, because the Vikings take a look at every player who becomes available. That is why NFL GMs call the process of building a roster a never-ending job. The key here will be Franklin himself. He’s an established quality starter in this League, so he may not want to sign with a team right now and compete with other guys during Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp. He may be better-served to wait it out and see if a team suffers an injury at his position or decides it doesn’t like what it has at his position and wants to upgrade by signing a veteran off the street.

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