Every Friday morning, we’ll answer Twitter and email questions submitted for these mailbags and our twice-a-week Access Vikings podcasts. Check out the latest podcast here previewing Sunday’s game in Green Bay.
Q: Could we possibly see Pat Elflein being benched for Brett Jones? — @leecvn72
AK: I would not expect this, especially as Brett Jones continues to take snaps at center (not guard) during the open portions of practices. Jones played almost exclusively center throughout training camp and the preseason (117 of 131 snaps) for the Vikings, who clearly view him as more of a center than guard in this system. Should left guard Pat Elflein be sidelined due to his knee injury, free-agent addition Dakota Dozier is expected to start. Jones snapped to backup quarterback Sean Mannion during Thursday’s practice, so he would presumably be active as Garrett Bradbury’s backup if Elflein is inactive.
Q: With the versatility of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, do you think we’re going to see considerably more two running back sets than previous years? — @Jkahner
AK: The Vikings will — and did on Sunday — deploy more two-back formations, however it’s fullback C.J. Ham in front of either Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison. One of those backs has to be a lead-blocking threat, which neither Cook nor Mattison are, to make the play-action concepts a real threat. That’s why Ham’s versatility as a receiver and ball carrier is a key to his playing time, since he can leak out of the backfield and factor in the passing game. Unpredictability is the goal for Mike Zimmer on offense, and the involvement of Ham and multiple tight ends (Rudolph, Smith Jr., Conklin) likely means we won’t see much, if any, sets with both Cook and Mattison. But they’ll get plenty of run individually.
Q: Looked like the Packers O-line gave up some lost yards in the Bears game. What’s your take on that? Can the Vikings exploit that? — @MikeDigitalink
AK: I think the Bears’ defensive front makes nearly every NFL offensive line look like that. This Packers offensive line, without a doubt, will be a harder test for the Vikings defense than the Falcons group that started two rookies and lost one of them to a broken foot early in Sunday’s game. With that said, the Vikings sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in two games last season. Rodgers was sacked five times by the Bears. The key will be much like what the Bears did: stop the run (Aaron Jones averaged 3.0 yards per carry) and then tee off on Rodgers in obvious passing situations. I like the Vikings’ chances, especially after the creative adjustments we saw against the Falcons.
Q: How impressed are you with the veteran leadership on this team? Example, Thielen and Everson both stating right away that it was just one game, get back to work and refocus on the next game. — @BradBorg2
AK: There are two classes (top-dollar deals and rookie contracts) within the Vikings’ roster, and the front office has done a remarkable job of paying the kind of guys that likely won’t make you regret it (very often). Those leaders, whether nose tackle Linval Joseph, tight end Kyle Rudolph or linebacker Anthony Barr, have set strong examples on and off the field for a very young roster. You wouldn’t think it, but this Vikings’ 53-man roster is the sixth-youngest group in the NFL with an average age of 25.58 years; they’re tied with the Packers for the second-youngest NFC roster. For a group built to win now in Minnesota, that leadership is critical as they try to maintain the talent pipeline with younger, and much cheaper, labor through the draft and college free agency. Because they can’t afford to buy many quality backups in free agency.