Every Friday morning, we'll answer Twitter and email questions submitted for these mailbags and our twice-a-week Access Vikings podcasts. Listen here to our latest podcast previewing Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
Q: Can the Vikings offense show balance again against the Eagles? — @WalterMaselli
AK: In five games against the Eagles defense, No. 1 running backs have produced more receiving yards (151) than rushing yards (140), which is a good way to illustrate the difficulty in Philadelphia’s No. 1 run defense. The Vikings want to run through Dalvin Cook, but the one time they couldn’t — a Sept. 29 loss in Chicago — the offense scored six points and averaged 3.8 yards per play. Perhaps this would be a good week for the Vikings’ screen game to flourish against a quality opponent after ravaging the injury-riddled Giants linebacker corps last Sunday. Cook can be plenty effective as a receiving threat if the running game is minimized. It’d sure be a boost for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has yet to string together back-to-back good games this season. “We’ve worked extremely hard on screens,” Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. “It’s going to slow the pass rush down a little bit or it’s going to keep a linebacker out of coverage.”
Q: Given their importance to a potential playoff run, should the team be rotating Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter more? — @donraul007
AK: The Vikings have to make the playoffs before worrying about maintaining players, and having Griffen and Hunter play every possible snap is their best chance. With that said, neither are playing unprecedented roles. They’re playing around 85 percent each, which matches Hunter’s 2018 (84.4%) and Griffen’s 2016 (85.8%). They’re both playing at such a high level that even while Stephen Weatherly is a solid role player, there is a drop off when he enters the game.
Griffen and Hunter account for one of just two pairs of NFL edge defenders that each rank top 10 in quarterback pressures so far this season, joining the Saints’ Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
Q: What’s up with Stephen Weatherly this season? Haven’t heard much from him on the field. — @richard_seubert
AK: The Vikings still have high hopes for Weatherly, even if he’s been relatively quiet in a pass rush-heavy role. Don’t overlook what he’s being asked to do. For the first time in games this season, Weatherly is often asked to be a pass-rushing defensive tackle on third downs. He’s been paired with Hercules Mata’afa and Ifeadi Odenigbo, both more experienced interior rushers, in these looks. The pressures haven’t come quite yet, but Weatherly is proven at multiple positions and can produce given time. He was an effective 4-3 edge rusher last year, three years after being drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker from Vanderbilt. The Vikings needed interior pass rush on third downs, so they turned to Weatherly this season. He’s often used in the defense’s “diamond” front, which is a speedy five-wide look featuring Everson Griffen, Weatherly and Odenigbo inside and Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter on the edges.
Q: Since the Redskins are in disarray, do you see the Vikings trading for Trent Williams? — @Jaq_Be_Nimble
AK: That’s a tall — and unlikely — order, given Washington’s steadfast stance not wanting to trade its franchise left tackle, among other factors. The Vikings also host Washington on Oct. 24, five days before the trade deadline, so any deal before then pits Washington’s former star against them. While the NFL salary cap is malleable, the Vikings are tight up against it this season and would need some accounting gymnastics to fit what’s remaining of his $10.85 million salary. That’s overlooking the lofty draft capital it’d likely take to pry Williams from Washington’s locker room.