Brian Hall’s Nov. 14 Vikings mailbag

A victory in prime time, strong play from the quarterback spot and a rebound by the defense has eased the reaction from Minnesota Vikings’ fans. In no way did Thursday’s 34-27 win against Washington clear the air, but there is a better feeling after the win from emailers and around the team, in general.

Here’s this week’s Vikings’ mailbag:

Question: Do you think AP could even be more effective out of the read-option offense or the pistol set?  At least make it a bigger part of the offense.  And then could Ponder be the qb in that set or do the Vikes need to draft someone.
— Woody, Black Hills

Answer: If there was one spot in which Minnesota didn’t exactly shine, particularly in the second half, it was the running game against Washington. Adrian Peterson had two touchdowns, but finished with 20 carries for 75 yards.

However, looking at the pistol or read-option offense as a full-time scheme for the Vikings would be going against Peterson’s strengths as a runner. The Vikings already limit his effectiveness, somewhat, in playing more shotgun in recent games. However, Peterson proved he’s at his best — and Minnesota’s offense is at its best — when it’s a true running team, going right through the line at teams with Peterson following fullback Jerome Felton. With teams loading the box to stop Peterson those big gains are plenty when he’s able to break free and there’s no one left to stop him.

Ponder is mobile, but isn’t really a true read-option style quarterback. I don’t think Minnesota would draft a quarterback just to use the read-option, but with a new coaching staff all options are open. Peterson likely would still be effective in a pistol, read-option offense but why not leave the reigning MVP as the focus of the offense? Conceivably, to make the read-option offense work, the threat of the quarterback keeping and running has to be a big part.

Q: Joe Webb is an above avergae athletic guy.  Is there any reason why the Vikings will not involve one of their more athletic players in the passing game?  I know he just made the transition to WR but he should be more involved in the offense.  Currently, all they use him for is a run blocker (very effective) and a decoy.  His talents are not being utilized.
— Antonio Taylor, Washington, DC

A: Webb’s usage has long been a topic of conversation from receiver to quarterback and now back to receiver.  Frankly, Minnesota has better options at receiver right now. Webb is still playing a bit, even as the fifth receiver. He does usually come in for more of a blocking role, which could become a “tell” from the offense’s side. But he’s caught three passes this season while working behind Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson.

While the receivers might have been an issue in the past, Minnesota has upgraded the receiving corps and now doesn’t have enough snaps to go around for everyone, particularly Patterson. Simpson’s recent arrest and pending status might open up more opportunities, but Webb is just behind more talented receivers at this point. Patterson is the player that should be receiving more time, and will likely be getting it.

Q: 2 QUESTIONS,1-I think that if the Vikings let Griffin get away ala free agency,it would be a huge MISTAKE,this kid is the next Stud D-man and will have a huge impact when he becomes the starter,what do you think? 2-We should have some great draft pics again and i think that Manziel is the Qb that we have to get ,the guy that can turn this mess around,has to start with him,everyone worries about height and attitude,i think he is another Drew Breese with even more talent athletically.Agree or not? We have to start at Qb,and his passion and fire he has for the game are incredible.
— B. Grant, Sacramento,CA.

A: Whoa, whoa, whoa, who said we’re going to start taking two questions? Just kidding. Starting with defensive end Everson Griffen, I do think the Vikings will try to re-sign Griffen. There have been talks between the team and Griffen’s representative but Minnesota reportedly hasn’t offered the type of money Griffen is looking for right now.

Griffen was promoted by many, even nationally, to be a breakout candidate this year, but he’s struggled along with a few of the other pass rushers. He has three sacks after posting a career-high eight last year. But maybe Griffen, who will also slide inside in pass-rushing situations, is finding his rhythm. He has sacks in two straight games. After reaching an extension with Brian Robison on the other side, it makes sense for Griffen to be the eventual replacement for Jared Allen. Minnesota doesn’t have much returning along the defensive line, so they will likely try to bring back Griffen.

As for Manziel, I’ve offered a couple opinions on quarterbacks so far. I do expect Minnesota to draft a quarterback next summer. Manziel is going to have a wide range of opinions. Some might see him as a Drew Brees type, or maybe a Russell Wilson. But he’s going to be dissected over the following months. Is he the type of passer that succeeds in the NFL? Does have leadership skills? He’s certainly proven himself on the college field and could end up as one of maybe a half-dozen quarterbacks selected in the first round.

Q: What is the scoop on A. Cole?
— Norskie, Austin, MN

A: Linebacker Audie Cole was a seventh-round draft pick last year. He was released last week when Minnesota was forced into adding another offensive tackle because Phil Loadholt was out with a concussion. The team waived Cole to make room for Kevin Murphy on the practice. But Cole cleared waivers and was added back to the active roster this week swapping spots with Murphy again. Murphy was added back to the practice squad on Tuesday.

Cole has been restricted to special teams. He’s tall (6-foot-5) and moves fairly well. He is one of the backups at middle linebacker, but he’s probably more destined to be a special teams player. If the team needed a middle linebacker at this point, I believe rookie Michael Mauti would be the “next man up” and with several linebackers on the roster, Minnesota probably felt it could afford to lose Cole if he was claimed off waivers. But he’s back and is back in his usual spot as a backup and special teamer.

Q: Wow Christian Ponder… what a game! I’m so happy for the young man who has been through so much this year and to complete 80 percent of his passes,hats off young man. Brian,why do you think Greenway is missing so many tackles this year? Also do you think it would be nice to draft or sign a nose tackle like Pat Williams and replace all linebackers that are starting this year? Because the safeties are making way to many tackles,because the tackles and ilinebackers are not doing there jobs.
— Gary, Az

A: A little love for Ponder after his game Thursday, how about that? Greenway, and the rest of the defense, had a tough time wrapping up and tackling Washington running back Alfred Morris last week. The inability to get Morris down was a big reason Minnesota was losing and Washington was controlling the clock in the first half.

Greenway has been a target by some this year but I’m not sure the mistakes are entirely on his part. He defended his play, in a way, with reporters earlier this year saying we can’t see what truly is the issue on defense. Greenway is a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker and one of the steadiest players on defense. Middle linebacker Erin Henderson might still be adjusting to playing inside and the team hasn’t been able to establish a strong weakside linebacker with Marvin Mitchell starting most of the games and losing Desmond Bishop to injury.

Minnesota would be served in really addressing the nose tackle position this offseason and finding a true run-plugging stopper like Pat Williams used to be. It could come during the draft. Signs were positive last week, especially in the second half, of Kevin Williams’ ability to play the position. But we’ll see if the Vikings make that more of a permanent move. Kevin Williams has resisted playing nose tackle in the past. I’ve wondered myself if, with Williams hoping to end his career in Minnesota, if he wouldn’t be re-signed to a contract and put at nose tackle permanently.

Q: After the completion of the first half against Washington. I thought, the Vikings are headed for loss number eight. I was surprised that they made adjustments at half time and turned the game around. The Vikings didn’t play great, but well enough to get the win. Far to many miss tackles. Cherish this victory Vikes. Seattles game will tough for the Vikings to win.
— Mike, Minneapolis

A: I’m sorry, is there a question in there? No, the Vikings did make some adjustments at halftime and looked like a different team in the second half. They held Washington to a field goal – coming on the first drive – and responded offensively as well to mount the come-from-behind effort, outscoring Washington 20-3 in the second half.

Coach Leslie Frazier and some players said defensive coordinator Alan Williams really challenged the defense at halftime, particularly because of the missed tackles. Minnesota looked better in the second half. We have to see if it was a trend. It will be tough this week against Seattle, who is 9-1 and has an elusive quarterback in Russell Wilson and a punishing running back in Marshawn Lynch.

Q: Can we talk about the draft that is the only optimistic we have now. Assuming Bridgewater is gone at #1, who would like fall to the Vikes if we happened to pick somewhere from 2-5?
— Omar, Mankato

Q: When the draft comes around, with all the areas of need. Do you think we should draft a QB with our first pick or address other areas and draft a QB later in the draft? What positions do you think need to be addressed with the draft in April since that appears to be the only think to look forward too.
— Ryan, Bismarck,ND

A: A win wasn’t enough to stop the draft speculation. And some were upset for Minnesota winning and ruining a potential draft slot. Yet, the two winless teams, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, also won their first games this week, leaving the Vikings tied with Houston at 2-7.

There’s a lot of time between now and the draft, particularly next year with the league’s move to a later draft date in May. Right now, Teddy Bridgewater from Louisville is considered to be the best quarterback available and one of the top overall selections. If Minnesota finishes behind Jacksonville and/or Tampa Bay, Bridgewater might be a dream. Jacksonville will likely be looking for a franchise quarterback after Blaine Gabbert proved to be a bust after being drafted ahead of Ponder. Tampa Bay, with possibly a new coaching staff, might not be enamored with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.

I believe Minnesota will be heading into the draft with the idea of taking a quarterback and likely doing so early. Franchise quarterbacks — minus the occasional Tom Brady or Russell Wilson — usually come from the top of the draft. The Vikings need to answer the position long term and will have to find their guy with their first pick. I’ve mentioned some of the top names before, including Manziel, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Fresno State’s Derek Carr.

Aside from quarterback, I think Minnesota needs to continue to try and find more depth in the secondary, and find playmaking cornerbacks who have good coverage skills. A big run-stopping nose tackle, an offensive guard and linebackers will be on the wish list as well.

Q: With all the injuries the Vikings have sustained this season. Jerome Simpson gets pickup for a DWi violation. Something you don’t do when your teams losing. Because of Simpson’s negligence, the Vikings will be short another starter. Which adds another burden to the team.
— Casey, Minneapolis

A: A DWI, which Simpson was formally charged with on Wednesday, is never a good idea, winning or not. Simpson is expected to play this weekend as the NFL and Vikings weigh possible discipline for the receiver. Simpson is first on the team with 491 receiving yards and second with 33 catches. The arrest and charges are another distraction and more negative attention for Minnesota, yes.

But in this case, I believe the Vikings might be able to fill Simpson’s shoes reasonably well, particularly compared to previous seasons. As I’ve said, the receivers have been upgraded this season and have played well considering the constant quarterback changes. Which leads right into my next question…

Q: Brian! thanks for getting to these questions! great work and like the insight!! Question I have is with Sipmson ordeal with his past and now present legal issues would it be wise just to let Cordarell Patterson get more exposure and really get more playing time?? Also it is sad when your a pro player and make great money and still be inept and not call a cab.. sad, just sad
— albert, Sioux falls

A: Simpson’s situation is sad and could have been prevented. And his previous issue with his arrest and conviction for marijuana charges could have Simpson being out for a while and might legitimately put his career in question.

For Patterson, he simply needs to play more. We’ve seen what he can do when given an opportunity, but he’s been behind Simpson all season. It comes in an unfortunate way, but maybe this is the break Patterson has needed. Patterson would get the chance to start and see his most extensive action on offense if Simpson is unavailable in subsequent weeks, and it might just be addition by subtraction for Minnesota.

Thank you for your submissions. Sorry we’re not able to answer each question individually. I’ve tried to hit as many different topics as possible. I hope we continue to hear from you in the future. Be sure to check for upcoming mailbags.

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