The Vikings (5-0) rest on a bye week, so let’s take the temperature on a few topics with a Twitter mailbag.
@Andrew_Krammer D line and secondary (Rhodes, Smith) have had plenty of focus but what’s your assessment of how the linebackers are playing?
— Jon Darling (@WarleyOwl) October 12, 2016
AK: First, read Patrick Reusse’s piece on the flash from the past brought by Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. The Vikings’ young linebacker duo hasn’t been mentioned as much when handing out credit to this budding defense. The two full-time starters haven’t, statistically, jumped off the page, though Kendricks’ seven pass deflections leads the defense and is tied for most among all linebackers. The Vikings’ win against the Giants was a sound example of their impact without starring in the box score. Tight end Larry Donnell has 10 pounds on Barr, but was knocked out of the game when trying to take on the Vikings linebacker. Later on a third down, Barr, at 6-5, 255, sped from the A gaps to cover one of Eli Manning’s early reads to the tight end; Kendricks then wrapped up the eventual receiver short of the marker. On the next play, Barr blitzed on fourth down, sidestepping the back and using his reach to deflect Manning’s throw for a turnover on downs. Between Barr’s size and Kendricks’ instincts, they’re a dynamic pair also critical for Mike Zimmer’s versatile blitz package. Chad Greenway has played only six snaps in the last two games as they remained in nickel against three-receiver offenses in Houston and New York. They haven’t amassed many tackles for losses, but the Vikings run defense (3.7 yards per carry) is tied for ninth.
AK: Along with upgrading at offensive tackle and the upcoming crossroads at quarterback and running back, atop Rick Spielman’s to-do list for next offseason should rest a long-term contract extension for cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes gets his share of penalties, but has consistently risen to the occasion of shadowing No. 1 receivers in the past year, including Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. Those four have a combined 13 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 30 targets in those games. He’s positioned himself well so far to be the Vikings’ next paid defender after safety Harrison Smith inked a lucrative extension last summer. Some of that cap space will likely come from the offensive line, where two of the eight players on injured reserve are not under contract for next season in Matt Kalil and Andre Smith. Kalil didn’t miss a start (68 games) until undergoing season-ending hip surgery last month. Health has always been Kalil’s biggest obstacle and again he played injured the first two weeks, during what may have been his final audition in Minnesota. Smith, who signed a one-year deal this spring, continued to underachieve in his transition from the Bengals to the Vikings. Triceps surgery ended his season this week. Adrian Peterson’s deal, with an $18 million option in 2017, will likely be addressed.
@Andrew_Krammer is their plan to put Long at LT and move Clemmings to RT? Or is Clemmings back to a reserve role?
— Matt P. (@MattP_BU) October 12, 2016
AK: Jake Long worked at left tackle during his first practice on Tuesday and will have the chance to assume that role, which would allow T.J. Clemmings to move back to right tackle, where he played three years after converting from defensive lineman at Pitt. Clemmings had a decent start against Carolina filling in for Kalil, but really struggled last Sunday against Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney.
@Andrew_Krammer Any word on what’s going on with Mike Harris?
— Nels Thoreson (@NelsThoreson) October 12, 2016
AK: Mike Harris has not disclosed what exactly has kept him on the non/football-illness list since the start of camp in late July. He’s jogging and exercising lightly at the Vikings’ training facilities, but has been told he can’t do anything too strenuous. The team does not expect him to play this season. It’s a tough situation for Harris, who at age 27 was coming off his first 16-start season and had an opportunity to ward off Brandon Fusco and keep his job at right guard. And it’s another hit to the Vikings’ depth as they shuffle at tackle, where Harris also started five games in 2014.
@Andrew_Krammer If you are reordering the WR depth chart, what would it look like after the bye? Seems like Charles Johnson is out
— Jake Scott (@Jake_Scott4) October 12, 2016
AK: Charles Johnson’s odyssey continues. His latest descent in playing time came with Cordarrelle Patterson’s growing role. Patterson first started to see more snaps after his successful start on punt coverage and with a matchup preference against the Giants. He remained involved against the Texans, once again outpacing Johnson in the offense. In those two games, Patterson has nine catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, further clouding the near future at split end. What’s clear is the trio of Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are in Sam Bradford’s sight. Diggs and Thielen account for 64 percent of targets to receivers.