Every week send any Vikings-related questions to @Andrew_Krammer and I’ll answer them here on Fridays.
What’s the game plan to keep Cam in check?
— Michael Wiers (@michael_wiers) December 5, 2017
A: Stick to some of what has worked. The Vikings have had little issue containing Cam Newton and the Panthers in two games under Mike Zimmer. Newton, the league’s MVP in 2015, has lost two straight to Minnesota in games the Panthers produced just 10 and 13 points. He’s completed just 56 percent of his passes for 456 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in those two losses to the Vikings in 2014 and 2016. The Vikings netted eight sacks on Newton last season and will be looking to do more of the same on Sunday against their former left tackle Matt Kalil. The Vikings’ front seven will need to be patient against a Panthers run game predicated on misdirection. In pass rush, a four-man pressure could again play a critical role after Minnesota’s defensive line accounted for 10 of the 12 hits on Newton in last season’s win. “No cheap shots, you just hit him. You just keep on hitting him,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “He’s a big guy, you just hit him.”
Is Mac Alexander playing well?
— Josh Henig (@josh_henig) December 5, 2017
A: Zimmer recently said Alexander, the second-round pick in his second NFL season, is still learning the position. There were some plays in Atlanta that showed room for improvement. What stands out are his coverage skills and reaction time, evident when he read the Julio Jones screen and lowered his shoulders for what should’ve been a minimal-to-no gain. Instead, Alexander projected himself like a missile and bounced off Jones who ran for an 11-yard gain. Alexander showed off those coverage skills on another screen, deflecting Matt Ryan’s final pass of the game. He’s playing about 35 percent of snaps as the nickel cornerback in passing situations. Veteran Terence Newman has still been relied upon as the starting slot corner, manning most early downs or short-yardage third downs.
Should we fear that Captain Munnerlyn will reveal our defensive strategies to the Panthers? He was with us last year.
— Trevor Steele (@jakep323) December 5, 2017
A: Munnerlyn could give the Panthers a little boost in preparation this week having played three seasons for the Vikings from 2014-2016. It’s something the Vikings certainly did this week with right tackle Mike Remmers, who played for the same three years in Carolina. How much that matters could amount to a wash given how most NFL coaches change some things up, like audible calls and signals, when facing a familiar opponent. Zimmer didn’t seem to concerned about Munnerlyn’s on-field jabber when asked about the possibility of some trash talk: “He won’t be saying too much, I don’t think.”