Thank you for submitting questions for this week's Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to @Andrew_Krammer on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for answers on the Access Vikings podcast or find them here. Let's get to it.
Q: Do we have enough cornerbacks? Or do we need one more? What's the predicted depth chart coming out of training camp? — @reggiepeterson
AK: What's become clear from watching three OTA practices open to reporters is coordinator Ed Donatell won't necessarily be leaning on more corners in his dime packages. The Vikings didn't play much dime (six defensive backs) under Mike Zimmer, but that seems ready to change under Donatell. In those defenses during practices, I've consistently seen a third safety playing as the sixth DB. On Wednesday, it was Josh Metellus, but that'll probably be Camryn Bynum in the regular season once rookie Lewis Cine starts playing with the starters. For now, Chandon Sullivan – a former Packer – seems poised for a big role as the only experienced slot corner on the roster. But we could see the Vikings mix it up with three-safety nickel packages as well. If I had to pick six corners on the 53-man roster right now, they'd be Patrick Peterson, Andrew Booth Jr., Sullivan, Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd and Akayleb Evans. Whether that's enough will be determined by whether Booth, the second-round pick, is healthy after an injury-marred career at Clemson and if Sullivan plays well in the slot.
Q: Which of the following Vikings weaknesses from last season, if improved, would make the biggest difference: clock/game management, fresh ideas on offense in second and long or giving up touchdowns on nearly a third of all opponent drives at the end of each half? — @farm_fields204
AK: Holding up defensively at the end of each half and overtime would do wonders after the end of the Zimmer era went down in flames. Zimmer's final Vikings defense gave up 135 points in those situations last year – or 32% of their total points allowed all season. That was an especially critical factor in losses to the Cardinals, Cowboys and Ravens. So I'd have to pick the latter, but that also can include clock and game management. Rookie head coach Kevin O'Connell has proclaimed it one of his pillars of coaching, bringing along game management coordinator Ryan Cordell, who will be in O'Connell's headset on game days and has worked previously with general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, to put the team in better situations.
Q: You get to pick one free agent that this team can sign whose name isn't JC Tretter. Who are you signing? — @jtmnskol
AK: I would've thrown out there the recovering Odell Beckham Jr., but the Vikings decided to sign speedster Albert Wilson this week in the search for depth and competition. Perhaps more depth on the defensive line could help. Interior free agents include Ndamukong Suh and Sheldon Richardson. Veteran edge defender Justin Houston is a little long in the tooth, but he might offer some needed depth behind Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith.
Q: Is there any historical data showing how a defense performs after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4? I feel that would be a tough change technique wise as well as responsibilities. Either way, it will be exciting to see something different. — @manderson211
AK: There are anecdotal examples all over the board. Perhaps nobody made the switch better than Bill Parcells, who took over the Cowboys in 2003 and saw that defense improve tremendously in points per game (2nd, +11 spots) and yards per game (1st, +17 spots). Veteran defensive coach Wade Phillips saw results with the Rams in 2017, but struggled to maintain any traction years earlier in Atlanta in 2002 and 2003. Dom Capers also saw immediate results in 2009 with Green Bay. But the flip side is what we've seen out of Brandon Staley's Chargers, who regressed in defensive rankings, and former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who never really got it to work in Indianapolis while trying to meet in the middle with "hybrid" schemes of 3-4 and 4-3 principles. Switching schemes is not an easy transition, regardless of what the team in the middle of it tells you. Linebacker Eric Kendricks will have to adjust to another linebacker, Jordan Hicks, in the middle with him while edge rusher Danielle Hunter has more coverage assignments and on-the-fly decisions to make at outside linebacker. How Donatell observes the players' strengths and weaknesses in this scheme and adjusts will also be key.
Q: We have 17 potential right guards on the roster, so I think depth there is OK. But besides quarterback, what position is in serious trouble if an injury or two strikes? — @grumpysicilian
AK: To quote Donatell: "Our thing starts with edge players, and we've got a nice stable of rushers." That seems up for debate beyond the headliners Hunter and Smith. After not drafting any edge rushers, the team ponied up fifth round-level guarantees to snag more options in undrafted free agents Zach McCloud ($250,000) and Luiji Vilain ($227,000). Reserve D.J. Wonnum has experience as an outside linebacker at South Carolina, but coaches are mostly trying to find 3-4 edge depth from previously drafted 4-3 defensive ends Patrick Jones and Janarius Robinson. How they make the transition and how Wonnum develops could go a long way toward that spot looking a little less thin.
Q: How many receivers do you see making the 53? After Jefferson, Thielen and Osborn, who would they be? — @skoloholics
AK: The Rams have kept six receivers on the initial 53-man roster in all five seasons under head coach Sean McVay. That's no guarantee under O'Connell, who routinely mentions fullback C.J. Ham as a way his Vikings will differ from his old stomping grounds. Expect plenty of two-back sets and, depending on the health of Irv Smith Jr. and Johnny Mundt, potentially two-tight end sets along with the three-receiver offense often seen in LA. So whether six receivers are kept may come down to special teams roles, where Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dan Chisena and rookie Jalen Nailor will have to separate themselves. Wilson was added to the mix this week, further crowding the picture.
Q: What can I expect going to my very first Vikings home game and my very first time in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area? — @jtone01
AK: We had this discussion on the Access Vikings podcast last week. As far as U.S. Bank Stadium goes, there are few in-stadium environments that match the pregame fanfare and decibel levels that place can reach. New nose tackle Harrison Phillips recently recalled one of his first NFL games as a Bills rookie in 2018 at the venue: "I would have said this if I would have gone anywhere in free agency – the Vikings do it right. I mean, when I played there four years ago, that was a really cool [atmosphere]. That was my rookie year, so I was really into all that stuff. But it was like, 'OK, this is pretty dang cool.' It was pretty loud in there, the entrance got me going." Obviously for those who remember that 2018 loss to Buffalo, you could hear a pin drop by the end.