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Monday Morning Mailbag: Replacing Peterson & Aspirations for 'Three Deep'

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With Patrick Peterson going down late in the Carolina game, it still gets you scared about their current corner starting situation and depth at the position. Is there anyway the Vikings try to add another corner via trade, maybe Darius Slay or Marshon Lattimore?

— Anthony in Davenport, Iowa

Hope everyone enjoyed their bye week! The Vikings did not lose by a field goal or rally for an exhilarating win, so it had to be somewhat more relaxing than what we've seen in previous weeks. OK, onto the topic of Peterson.

First off, you can't help but feel for the 31-year-old veteran. He was playing relatively well in his first season in Purple and has actually never missed a game due to injury in his career.

But the hamstring issue popped up, and he'll miss at least the next three games, with the hope that he's back by the Packers game.

I wouldn't used the word 'scared' when I think about the trio of Bashaud Breeland, Cameron Dantzler and Mackensie Alexander going forward. Especially not with Alexander, who mans the slot and is good at his role.

I might use 'inconsistent' when it comes to the other two, as Breeland and Dantzler will be called upon in a big way after both have gone through some ups and downs to start the season.

And this is also who I believe the Vikings will roll with going forward. Peterson's injury isn't expected to be a season-ending one, so now likely isn't the time to make a trade for another cornerback.

Plus, there aren't a ton of options at that position after some movement there in recent weeks. Richard Sherman signed with Tampa Bay. Carolina traded for both Stephon Gilmore and former first-rounder C.J. Henderson.

It's not as if teams are giving away quality starting cornerbacks for free, so I imagine the Vikings stand pat with who they have.

It will certainly be a tall task, especially given the pass-catching stars with the Cowboys and Chargers, but this is why Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer always preaches about depth in the secondary.

Expect the trio of Breeland, Dantzler and Alexander to get loads of playing time going forward. And how they play in the next three games could very well determine if the Vikings make the playoffs or not.

I'm glad we won, but sad because we are still stuck with Zimmer! We will not survive the next four games with him. Then it will be too late to save our season. Give Klint Kubiak a chance and see what we've got now.

— Joe in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Speaking of the tough upcoming stretch — it's worth noting that Dallas, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay all entered Week 7 leading their divisions — Joe is taking a pessimistic view on how things will play out.

But the thought of getting rid of your respected and mostly-successful head coach at this point of the season is, and I'm trying to be nice here, a ludicrous idea.

I've gotten plenty of fan emails of late that criticize Zimmer's perceived conservative approach or have a bone to pick with his defense giving up a game-tying, fourth-quarter drive. I can understand those.

I do not understand this. The Vikings have put themselves in position to challenge for a playoff spot, even if it has been ugly at times. They are 3-3 and should be rested and refreshed coming out of the bye.

Yes, they will need to carry the momentum of a two-game win streak into a massive home game against Dallas on Sunday Night Football. And yes, the Vikings will need to be more consistent than they were in the first six games of the season.

But the thought of getting rid of a coach who is 67-50-1 in the middle of the season after winning two in a row? Likely ain't happening.

Plus, and this is with all due respect to Klint Kubiak, but he's only six games into his career as an offensive coordinator, and said on Oct. 14 that he's also learning on the fly.

"Definitely have had plenty to learn, and Coach Zimmer has been great working with me throughout that, and the assistant coaches," Kubiak said. "Experience has been the best teacher."

Let's sit back and enjoy the wacky and wild ride that is sure to unfold over the next 11 games.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

Now our big three receivers are Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn. Reminds me of when we had Hall of Fame receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss, plus Jake Reed, in the 1990s. It's a triple threat, baby! We also have Dede Westbrook. Looking forward to watching this trio of Viking receivers catch game winners for a long time! SKOL!

— Jeffrey Lee

Listen, I am all for touting the three-headed monster of Thielen, Jefferson and Osborn. Heck, I even wrote about that group last week as one of the biggest bright spots going forward and a reason the offense has so much potential through the air.

Kubiak has shown a willingness to get them all on the field, too, which shows the team's confidence in that trio.

According to data from Sharp Football Analysis, the Vikings have used 11 personnel (3WR, plus a RB and TE) on 201 of their 419 offensive plays so far this season, a whopping 48 percent. Compare that to the 2020 season — when Minnesota ran 294 plays in that set (29 percent) — or the 2019 season, when just 25 percent of the Vikings offense operated out of 11 personnel.

Some of that has to do with compensating for Irv Smith, Jr.'s, meniscus injury, and some of it has to do with Osborn's emergence. So I'm really trying to highlight how much I like that group.

But the group Jeffrey referenced — which is infamously referred to as "Three Deep" — is in a class of its own.

Carter and Moss, as mentioned above, are Hall of Famers. Both were the best of the best at their position for over a decade, and both put up gaudy numbers year after year. And Reed was no slouch on his own, as he recorded 1,100-plus receiving yards each season from 1994-97.

Just to emphasize my point, Thielen has recorded just a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in his entire career, and certainly hasn't done it four times in a row.

Sure, the potential for the current trio is really high! Thielen is as consistent as they get, Jefferson is one of the league's best young wide receivers (and possibly in the top five overall), and Osborn's rise is an awesome story.

But this group is not up to the standards of Carter, Moss and Reed. Perhaps they get there in a few years, but they aren't there yet.

I think we had three holding penalties but we gave up zero sacks, I'd take that every game. With the penalties we at least get the down over. Good job offensive line. What are your thoughts?

— Jim Ernst

Overall, I thought it was a fairly solid day for the offensive line. The biggest number there is obviously the zero sacks allowed, but to give up only four pressures on 49 dropbacks is also impressive.

The penalties were mostly on Olisaemeka Udoh, who had a rough game in his return to his home state with a false start and two holds, plus another hold that was declined.

That aside, what is exciting is that this was the first look at what could be the Vikings starting offensive line for years to come. Brian O'Neill is obviously a stud and the leader of this group, but Christian Darrisaw's first start seemed to give the line a bit of a jolt.

If you missed it, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger put out a great tweet breaking down the rookie's first NFL start:

If Darrisaw develops quickly, the team could have some cornerstone tackles for the first time in a long time. The interior linemen will be worth watching, too, as they have allowed some pressures up the middle.

But overall, this group has high potential. And if they play to a high standard, it could really be a boon to a Vikings offense that has the firepower to keep up with anyone in the league if the group is clicking.

I'm interested to know a little bit more about the progress of both Wyatt Davis and Irv Smith, Jr.

— Tom in South Surrey, British Columbia

There's not too much to report on either player at the moment, but I'll give it a try.

Davis was active in Week 6, marking the first time he's been available to play in a game all season. And he did see the field for five snaps on special teams, so kudos to him for his first NFL action.

I don't think he'll be starting on the line in the immediate future, but it is worth watching if Udoh struggles like he did against the Panthers and coaches see progression from Davis in practice. I'd guess the odds of that are low, but it's something to put in the way back of your mind.

As for Smith, he's been in the team facility but is still on the mend for his unfortunate injury. Because he was placed on Injured Reserve after the 53-man roster was announced, he could still technically come back and play this season.

But I don't believe anyone is thinking about that right now, as the focus is just on him getting better and getting healthy for next season.