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Monday Morning Mailbag: Will Vikings Secondary Be Better or Worse Than 2019 Version?

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Just re-watched the second Bears game when we sat the starters [in Week 17]. I believe our secondary will be BETTER next season. Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Mike Hughes and company will do better than last year's starters. Add in our draft picks, and this defense will be greatly improved. What's your opinion?

— Scott Reynolds

We'll start with Scott, who gets major kudos for re-watching a game that didn't have an impact on the Vikings playoff seeding, and re-watching it in the middle of summer, too. That shows the passion of a dedicated fan.

Onto your question though … will the secondary be better than last year? I'll start with the safety tandem of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, and my gut feeling is that duo will actually be better in 2020. They are both talented players and will continue to mesh together on the field, so why can't they be better than they were in 2019?

The cornerbacks could be a different story, however, and only because of the inexperience of that group. Gone are a trio of starters in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, a group that has appeared in 233 collective career games.

Let's say, as of now, that the first three cornerbacks up in 2020 are the three you mentioned: Hill, Boyd and Hughes. That group has 60 total games of experience in the NFL. And if it's Hughes, Hill and first-rounder Jeff Gladney, for example, that number drops to 44 total games.

The talent is certainly there in the secondary for the Vikings to be tough to throw against. They have the top safety duo in the league, and you know Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will get creative with his play calls. But because of the inexperience within the cornerback group, the entire unit will be tested.

To answer your question, how about this plausible scenario? The Vikings secondary starts off slow in 2020 but improves throughout the season to finish about the same as 2019. But then the potential is there in the coming years for a top-tier unit, similar to what the Vikings had in 2017.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Who would you like to see the Vikings pick up in free agency?

— Michael Dexter in Rochester, Minnesota

Adding to the roster could be an option as we get closer to camp, but I could also see the team keeping the roster at 87 players for now and waiting a bit to add more players. Perhaps they wait a week or so and see how early camp battles shake out before adding depth?

But at this point, the areas I'd possibly look to address would be along both the offensive and defensive lines, at cornerback and safety, and also wide receiver.

While I covered Smith and Harris above, there are no players with NFL experience behind them currently on the roster. And teams are always looking for depth in the trenches.

I'm looking to see if I can get some answers to some questions that have been hovering around my head about our team. What do you think is the team's current weakness and weak spot we need to adapt and improve on to get to our final goal of the ring? And what are the core values of the team and players that form the close-knit bond, such as [Anthony] Barr & [Eric] Kendricks, [Dalvin] Cook & [Alexander] Mattison, etc.?

— Michael Thomas from Duluth

First off, Michael, congrats on setting the NFL single-season record with 149 receptions last year. (Whoops, this probably isn't that Michael Thomas).

Onto your questions...

I'd throw out two areas that I'll be watching this season, one of which is the cornerbacks, again for the reasons I covered above. But the other is the offensive line, which is probably an annual answer for multiple teams this time of year and is even magnified more by the lack of an in-person offseason program. The Vikings certainly have pieces to build around long-term, and I'm mainly thinking of Brian O'Neill and Garrett Bradbury here. Ezra Cleveland could join that group, but we have to see how much playing time he earns in 2020.

To me, if the offensive line can take another step forward as they did in 2019, that could bode well for the Vikings chances of not only making the playoffs, but going on a deep run. With the Vikings wanting to run the ball and lean on play-action passes, having an offensive line that opens up those holes would bode well for everyone, but mostly Cook and Kirk Cousins.

As for the core values, those haven't changed ... and have only evolved ... as Mike Zimmer enters his seventh season in Minnesota. He wants his team to be tough, smart and disciplined. That means winning at the line of scrimmage, not committing dumb penalties and being able to succeed when things get tough in the fourth quarter. We saw that in 2019, and the hope is that mantra only grows in 2020.

Since you asked for the team's biggest weakness above, I'll add in a bonus thought about the team's biggest strength. I'd vote for Minnesota's linebackers, with Kendricks and Barr leading the way.

I hope all of you have a safe and fun July 4th holiday. SKOL.