Thank you for submitting questions for this week's Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for answers on the "Access Vikings" podcast or find them here. Let's get to it.
Q: Is safety Josh Metellus going to be looking for a raise in the offseason? — 'M'
AK: Metellus ranks fourth on the defense with 739 snaps. He signed a two-year extension worth up to $13 million before Week 1, knowing he was headed for a larger and steady role under Flores. But that role might be even bigger than they expected. He isn't leaving the field because he can do a little bit of everything. He's manned the middle of coverages, bouncing between slot corner and linebacker duties, while ranking third on the team in tackles. He also has four pass deflections, three forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Metellus essentially signed for an extra two years and $8 million with $5.1 million fully guaranteed. That $4 million average is in line with a player like Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers ($4.5 million per year), who is playing just as much as Metellus. There's another roughly $4 million Metellus can earn via unreported incentives, so he can boost the value. He earned a solid payday before the season and has played up to that for a strong Vikings defense.
Q: What are the chances Jaren Hall is the starting quarterback out of the bye week? — @tua76466_g
AK: Coach Kevin O'Connell said Tuesday he would consider all options during the Vikings' bye week after Joshua Dobbs' four-interception game Monday night. Hall, the fifth-round pick, showed poise in his brief first NFL start on Nov. 5 in Atlanta. But it's important to note that upon his return from a concussion last week, he was the No. 3 passer behind veteran Nick Mullens, who was on injured reserve when Hall made his first start. Mullens, in his seventh season, still has more NFL starts — 17 — than Dobbs and Hall combined. He has years of experience practicing a West Coast system from San Francisco to Cleveland to Minnesota. Perhaps most importantly, he's been with the Vikings for 15 months and might be the most reliable of their current replacement options. At this point, I don't expect Hall to be the starter.
Q: What proverbial statement would you need to see from the Vikings against the Raiders that would re-establish the idea of making a deeper run in the playoffs? — @draw_goblin
AK: I'm not sure there's much the Vikings can do against the Raiders (5-7), who are playing better under interim head coach Antonio Pierce, to move the needle on this year's outlook. Rebuilding confidence, at least among outsiders, after losing at home to the Bears should be a multiweek process. Whoever starts at quarterback has a good opportunity to get back on track against the Raiders — 5.4 yards per play allowed, ranking 23rd — followed by another porous defense in Cincinnati, where the Bengals don't have Joe Burrow and allow a league-worst 6.2 yards per play. That leads into the next big game: Dec. 24 vs. the Lions.
Q: What happened with Josh Dobbs? What explains the drop off? — Ronnie
AK: The Bears and Broncos prioritized defending Dobbs' mobility. In oversimplified terms, that can mean methodical two-gap rushes, where a defender bullies the blocker backward and minds both sides as opposed to speed-rushing one gap, which leaves the other gap empty. The pass rush might not be as fast, but the approach has kept Dobbs from escaping forward and beating defenses with his legs.
"You've seen defenses be much more disciplined in their rush patterns," O'Connell said Tuesday. "They're really trying to keep him as much as they can in the pocket working through his progressions. When he has moved, the tendency has been to go backwards and out of the pocket as opposed to up and out."
Forcing Dobbs to be a pocket passer isn't his strength. He's not the most accurate. He's also new to the nuances of O'Connell's passing game. The coach has referenced the timing needed between a quarterback's feet and eyes followed by a throw in the rhythm of the play design. For instance, Dobbs might have learned a similar play-action dropback differently in one of his many NFL stops, and it's hard to maintain new habits when a pass rusher is attacking. When the timing is off, the pass can be early. When the pass is early, receiver Jordan Addison might not be expecting it that soon — like when he tipped a throw into an interception Monday night.
Q: Do you think the Vikings should bring back D.J. Wonnum? He seems to be playing better under Brian Flores. — Craig
AK: Only two of the Vikings' five edge rushers are signed beyond this season. They're Patrick Jones II and Andre Carter II. What Danielle Hunter is doing — tied with Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt with a league-leading 13.5 sacks — is remarkable. The 29-year-old star is headed for a massive payday from somebody, if not the Vikings. The other starter, Marcus Davenport, ranks 15th on defense with 118 snaps over four games. He has continued to be undercut by injuries, undergoing ankle surgery following an Oct. 15 injury.
That has opened the door for Wonnum, the 2020 fourth-round pick whose versatility as a rush-and-cover outside linebacker has shined under Flores. He has been a strong role player for a young defense that needs reliability. He doesn't miss many tackles. He finishes pass rushes — ranking second on the team with six sacks — when he gets there. He has batted down four passes at the line. There could be a long-term role for Wonnum even if that remains as a key rotation player.