Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Five questions to think about

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, Vikings defense, Vikings offense, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Bryant McKinnie, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt, Visanthe Shiancoe Updated: August 25, 2011 - 8:45 AM

While wondering how many people truly grasp the reality that the Vikings are down to 10 games left on their Metrodome lease ... 

These are a sampling of questions that have popped up in a number of different ways. You know, things like email, Twitter, blog comments, the hot sun beating my brains in for 2 1/2 hours during practice ...

1, If teams can throw away from Antoine Winfield, why not move him to strong safety?

I think Antoine would make an outstanding safety. If he's not the best tackler in the league, he's not far down the list. I think eventually he'll end up there and extend his career by a couple years. However, right now he's also the Vikings' best and most reliable cornerback. I'd like to see the Vikings have him shadow the opponents' No. 1 receiver, but that hasn't happened before and there's no reason to think it will now. Winfield moves into the slot in the nickel. That sometimes puts Chris Cook (the presumptive winner of the nickel job now that Asher Allen has been slowed by a toe injury) on the other team's top receiver. Cook is still a youngster in NFL catchup mode. Also, in this defense, corners are run-stoppers as well as cover guys. And with most offenses being right-handed in the running game, the Vikings like Winfield on that left side of the defense. No one comes up and drops a ball-carrier quicker than Winfield. And one thing new defensive coordinator Fred Pagac likes to do is rush Winfield off the edge in some passing situations. That's been very effective.

2, Any chance rookie Kyle Rudolph takes the No. 1 tight end job while Visanthe Shiancoe's hammy heals?

No player in camp has looked better than the big kid from Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Shiancoe has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. He hasn't played in the preseason and probably won't since the team has already ruled him out of the third game on Saturday night. I don't think Rudolph moves ahead of Shiancoe. And in this offense, there's room for two pass-catching tight ends. But I do think Rudolph is earning himself more playing time, whether that means more two tight end sets or some kind of rotation with Shiancoe.

3, Why not just move Phil Loadholt to left tackle?

Bryant McKinnie's condition -- or lack thereof -- caught the team off-guard. They weren't expecting him to be in great shape. But they were expecting something close to functional shape. When that wasn't the case, the team cut McKinnie in a move that could take up to a year to bounce back from. The long-term answer the team probably hopes to execute next offseason is moving Loadholt from right tackle to left tackle. Loadholt played it in college and is a massive human being with feet quick enough to play the position. But this close to the season, the Vikings are trying not to upset the entire apple cart by moving everybody around. They're already unsettled at right guard. A run-oriented offense doesn't want both positions on the right side to be unsettled. So, for now, the team is hoping Charlie Johnson can hang on for a season over on the left side.

4, Why doesn't Percy Harvin return punts?

He'd be the best punt returner on the team, for sure. His body-type and skills would make him a great punt returner, but is it worth putting extra wear and tear on a 195-pound guy who also is counted on as the team's best receiver and one of the league's top kickoff returners? With kickoffs moved to the 35-yard line, perhaps teams will render Harvin useless on kickoff returns by simply booting the ball deep into the end zone. If that's the case, maybe the Vikings would take him off kickoff returns and get better use out of his return skills on punt returns.

5, Why not have Toby Gerhart play fullback?

Reporters basically were scolded for stereotyping when they asked on draft day 2010 whether Gerhart would be a fullback and play alongside Adrian Peterson. Gerhart has running back skills, but is built big like a fullback. It's not like fullback is a high priority on this team. On a 90-man roster, the Vikings have two fullbacks. Neither has played an NFL game, and the leader in the clubhouse is Ryan D'Imperio, a converted college linebacker. That's not to say one of the many tight ends can't also line up as a fullback. But Gerhart seems more powerful this year -- although he's currently battling Achilles' and ankle soreness -- and it would be interesting to see him and Peterson together in the backfield in certain situations. I also like when the Vikings use Harvin out of the backfield. There were runs the past two years when Harvin looked like the second-best running back on the team.  

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