Star Tribune writer Dan Wiederer has a weekly Live Chat on the Vikings at startribune.com. Here are a few edited excerpts from Tuesday's session.
Q The way Jamarca Sanford has looked at safety, will he keep the job?
A Sanford played well the past 2 1/2 games. I have to give him credit for never sulking when he lost his starting role and digging in and trying to get better. That said, he still has deficiencies in pass coverage. The Vikings are still very hopeful of Mistral Raymond returning to start.
Q This team seems to have a nasty edge to it. From Jasper Brinkley, Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson. On the offensive side our new-look line has the ability to jam the running game down the other team.
A A team that was previously unsure of itself went into a home game against San Francisco and really controlled the game with physicality and tenacity. The confidence boost of that performance was huge. The defense is definitely starting to develop that nasty edge and a collective confidence.
Q The NFL is about not losing games vs. getting beat. The Vikings are winning because they are not beating themselves. Having said that, the offense needs to finish drives; red zone offense is a concern, agree?
A It starts with the quarterback. A year ago, we looked back on all those close losses the Vikings had and Christian Ponder had 15 turnovers in 10 starts. Now, he's making better decisions and not taking drive- killing sacks. They've also, for the most part, done a decent job with penalties. Only 16 total in their four wins. Yes, the offense needs to finish drives. But [kicker Blair] Walsh has been pretty automatic so far, which is another way to make sure winnable games don't turn into losses.
Q Why go away more from Antoine Winfield?
A The guy is 35 and has 14 years of NFL mileage on his odometer. There's no way to avoid the wear that comes with that. So I think the Vikings are managing this well right now. Taking snaps off Winfield to keep him fresh [for] later in the year. Giving Robinson meaningful playing time so his growth can be accelerated. It's a sensible plan.
Q What role do you see Toby Gerhart playing the rest of the year?
A Gerhart played the right role against Tennessee with six carries to Adrian Peterson's 17. Gerhart had 41 yards and seems to be on the right track again after that strange fumbling episode late in the SF game. I think a 3:1 ratio of Peterson to Gerhart carries is about right.
Q A little credit is due to General Manager Rick Spielman -- his only real "miss" is John Carlson thus far. The draft has been ridiculously successful and he handled Harvin perfectly. Agree?
A The verdict is still out on rookie receiver Jarius Wright as well. But Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier united on a plan for the offseason, never wavered from it, and it seems to be paying dividends fast. Having that strong coach-GM relationship is overlooked. But it's been helpful for this group.
Q Frazier has found a stride. If we beat the Redskins, then we can even possibly say he's turned the corner.
A Frazier kept the Vikings from quitting in 2011, and I thought that was a huge deal with a season that was atrocious. He has the players' respect, he has their listening ear and now as the wins stack up, he has their attention to follow orders to a 'T' with the proof that the plans will work.
Q What's Jared Allen's future look like with the Vikes?
A Allen is signed through the 2013 season. Has a base salary of more than $14 million next season, too. He'll be 32 going into the 2014 season, which should leave him some time. But how much will the Vikings be willing to spend?
Q What is the single biggest factor for this defense's turnaround: (A) improved cornerback play, (B) improved safety play, (C) Jasper Brinkley or (D) defensive coordinator Alan Williams?
A I'm going with B.