Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Monday Morning Mailbag: Integration of New Vikings; Send Questions for Culpepper

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. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town in the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

We have fewer than 100 days until the Vikings open the 2024 regular season at the New York Giants on Sept. 8. That's incredibly exciting, even though those of us in Minnesota aren't known for wishing away summer days.

I'd like to give neighbors a quick word of thanks and congratulate them on hosting their 24th annual Wing Fling this past Saturday. The friendships and fellowship enjoyed since moving into the neighborhood in 2015 have been tremendous. I didn't know this until Saturday, but one neighbor told me his first Vikings game was the Miracle at the Met in 1980 when Tommy Kramer's Hail Mary pass was reeled by Ahmad Rashad. The vividness and fondness remain clear nearly 45 years later.

View home and away photos of the Vikings 2024 regular season opponents.

Vikings Legend Daunte Culpepper Edition of MMM coming soon …

I'm happy to let you know Daunte Culpepper has agreed to participate in a Legends edition of the Monday Morning Mailbag. We'll follow the format we've used on previous Legends editions with Jared Allen as he was going into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2022 and with Jake Reed this past February.

Please send me your Culpepper-specific questions by noon (CT) on June 10 so that I can ask him while he is at the Minnesota Vikings Foundation Golf Tournament on June 11. We'll plan for the Culpepper edition to run on June 24.

Now that the draft is over and the Vikings have received many new players, I think me and many other Vikings fans want to know, is there a place we can meet players and talk to them?

— Aleksander Preston in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota

I wish this question was sent before last week because I would have suggested the UNRL Celebrity Softball Game that was hosted by C.J. Ham and helped benefit Thielen Foundation. CHS Field provided a great atmosphere where players signed autographs and visited fans before and after the game.

Now that has concluded, I'll suggest Vikings Training Camp as a future opportunity. Please keep an eye out for details that will be released this summer. If we know of other opportunities, we'll try to pass them along, as well.

What is the Vikings coaching philosophy when it comes to integrating new players into the team? Do you coach the individual to the playbook, do you adjust the playbook to maximize positional talents, or do you employ some combination thereof?

— Rudy (Vikings Fan since '68) in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Appreciate the longtime support.

There was an exceptionally high rate of roster turnover this offseason, so it will be pertinent for Minnesota to maximize the integration of those new players.

One factor that will help is considerable continuity among the coaching staff, including the return of all three Vikings coordinators for the first time since 2016-17 when Pat Shurmur finished that first season as interim offensive coordinator and returned in 2017, George Edwards was Minnesota's defensive coordinator and Mike Priefer was special teams coordinator.

Current Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips, Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores and Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels are back for their third, second and third seasons, respectively.

They have developed systems and have come to understand the ideal athletic traits and knowledge that can optimize those operations.

If a player has been added, it's generally because of the belief the addition will fit well in the whole system or through a specialized role. There obviously is a degree of adjustment when a newcomer arrives.

What we've seen in the first couple of years of Kevin O'Connell's tenure is a foundational commitment to understanding how each player best learns and then trying to utilize the methods of passing along that knowledge.

Flores has talked about developing an individual plan for each player. He likes versatility and is clever in creating special packages to try to keep offenses out of sync.

Some players can see things drawn on a whiteboard and instantly take the knowledge and apply it during the first rep on the practice field. Others do their best learning with on-field reps that are later reinforced by the whiteboard or film study.

Ideally everyone understands the entire playbook, but if that is not the case, then the player will be developed along the way while coaches try to capitalize on those initial positional traits.

In looking at the Vikings current roster and schedule, what's a realistic number for wins this season? What could change it for better or worse?

— Ed Helinski in Auburn, New York

I don't think I'm the right person to project win-loss totals for multiple reasons, including the fact that I work directly for a team.

During training camp last year, I wrote a W or L on a whiteboard near my desk. I incorrectly wrote 12 Ws, which seemed impossible by the end of September because of nine turnovers in the first three games. Reaching double digits in wins, however, seemed plausible when the team improved to 6-4 by mid-November. That was the first time I had done that, and I don't know that I'll do it again.

With so many changes to the roster this offseason, I think there's quite a bit of unknowns facing Minnesota.

The Vikings will have a new starting QB, and the two players who combined for 24.5 of the team's 43 sacks (Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum) departed in free agency. But there's been plenty to like about the additions that Minnesota made during a highly active free agency.

The health of the roster and protecting the football are two of the biggest keys to winning football games. The Vikings health and performance staff works hard to try to have every player at his best and in position to guard against some injuries, but they still can happen. Protecting the football is being drilled currently and will continue to be a point of emphasis.

Viking fan living in the state of Washington. Don't understand how a team that went 13-4 just two years ago, to now being predicted for last place? Having said that, I would like to see us find a WR3 and help on the defensive line. What are the options at this point?

— Jim M.

Most people didn't predict 13-4 in O'Connell's first season as a head coach, but the Vikings prevailed through a record number of narrow games.

Turnovers, injuries and narrow losses stacked up last season on the way to 7-10.

As far as the competition at WR3 (behind Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison as the clear-cut starters), the Vikings are returning several players. Brandon Powell and Jalen Nailor have the most experience in this system. N'Keal Harry, Lucky Jackson, Trishton Jackson, Malik Knowles and Thayer Thomas were around the program last season.

Trent Sherfield, Sr., was added during free agency, and rookies Devron Harper, Ty James and Jeshaun Jones were added after the draft.

Last month, Vinnie Iyer with The Sporting News, published his top 25 remaining free agents and included receivers Hunter Renfrow (formerly with the Raiders) and Michael Thomas (formerly with the Saints). Iyer's only defensive lineman listed was veteran Calais Campbell, who will turn 38 on Sept. 1.

It's worth noting that Dalton Risner (signed back by the Vikings last week) and Robert Tonyan (signed by Minnesota in May) were in Iyer's top 25.

The Vikings are returning Harrison Phillips and Jonathan Bullard but likely would like to have a rotation in place so neither plays quite as many snaps as last season. James Lynch is back from a season-ending injury, and Jaquelin Roy could take the next step in his second pro season.

Newcomer Jerry Tillery has received some early mentions of doing well, and Jonah Williams has experience with multiple Vikings coaches from their time together at the Rams. In case you missed it last week, Marcus Dixon spoke with media members, and Lindsey Young wrote this story that explains his early impressions. We'll find out so much more about the interior defensive line once the pads go on in training camp.

View photos from the Vikings sixth OTA practice, which took place on May 31 at the TCO Performance Center.

The rookie QB start or sit debate has raged for decades. Each side can point to successes and failures for their argument. Here's what I rarely see acknowledged in these debates. It has far less to do with QB readiness than team readiness. Ben Roethlisberger had a full team ready to win. That included a good OL, weapons, coaching and defense. Frankly I believe that order of complements is specific to success. Guys like Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf and Sam Darnold did not have many of those conditions for instant success. The 2024 Vikings have many such pieces in place including strong weapons, bookend tackles, great coaching and a defense on the come. Historically, the Vikings have been successful waiting to start young QBs including Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon and Daunte Culpepper all of whom won playoff games and made Pro Bowls.

But there are other factors for rookie QB success. First, it takes time to adjust to the NFL. Very few QBs are equipped to step into an NFL franchise and start winning right away. There's NFL game speed, a new environment, getting settled, new routines, etc. Second, in the Vikings situation you have an established veteran in Sam Darnold who has been through much of this. And here's an interesting question: If you have to make a QB change, are you better off changing from the veteran to the rookie or vice versa? To me it's obvious. If you start McCarthy and he struggles, and you switch to Darnold, where does that put McCarthy? Now you have a built-in QB controversy. Is McCarthy done? If not, when does he get put back in? Vikings fans of a certain age remember the term 'schism' regarding QBs and player loyalty.

For me, the best scenario is to start Darnold unless there is an obvious gap in progress during the preseason. I remember the Russell Wilson/Matt Flynn situation in Seattle. Flynn was the highly paid free agent, and Wilson the mid-round rookie who was expected to develop. We know how that turned out. That could happen with McCarthy just blowing the doors off and earning the job in camp. If it's even remotely close, you start Darnold for many reasons. There's very little downside. If Darnold strings together a series of early wins and the team is clicking, ride that wave. If the team struggles and/or Darnold's play is culpable, insert McCarthy. Frankly I won't be at all surprised if Darnold plays his tail off and proves himself a worthy high-end starter and possibly becomes valuable trade bait. We all know McCarthy is getting the keys to this Ferrari sometime. It's just a matter of being smart about it.


— Jeff Kilty in Sacramento, California

And …

How many touchdowns vs. interceptions do you foresee J.J. McCarthy throwing in his rookie season?

— Bryan H.

And …

I am a Michigan fan and have had my eye on J.J. for two years now. Many things impress me about him. The biggest that most people don't talk about is his ability to learn. From Year 1 to Year 2, he made a huge stride in learning. His coaches told him what he needed to work on and in the offseason, that's exactly what he did. Year 2 showed that ability and drive to learn and get better. Stay patient Vikings fans, this kid is talented and has the "IT" factor to win.

— Shawn in Wisconsin

We'll close with this trio of thoughts on the quarterback position.

All indications to this point are that the Vikings are excited by what they've seen from Sam Darnold and are equally excited to develop J.J. McCarthy.

It was cool to see Darnold playing third base and McCarthy at shortstop for the offense during last week's softball game. They were having a great time together and flashed some leather and arm strength.

In the open OTA practice last week, the Vikings had both take some reps with the first group in 7-on-7 before splitting the squad for 11-on-11 periods on separate fields. When the split occurred, Darnold and Nick Mullens were with the first group while McCarthy and Jaren Hall were with the developmental group.

McCarthy and Hall often are in the huddle together with 10 other players, showing the importance of being able to relay the plays in the huddle. Whoever is not taking that rep then takes a few steps back from the play and watches intently.

As far as predicting touchdowns and interceptions, I again am not the best person to ask, but there's a scenario where those numbers being small for McCarthy isn't the worst thing for him or the team.

Darnold will have what many believe to be the best supporting cast he's had (obviously excluding last season when he was San Francisco's backup).

It could be possible to enjoy the present and look forward to the future.