Mon, 27 Jun 2022

Monday Morning Mailbag: Reactions to 2022 Vikings Schedule

Minnesota Vikings
16 May 2022, 21:37 GMT+10

Craig Peters

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag, which is presented by FedEx. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Team Reporter Eric Smith a Mailbag question via Twitter. Note: I'm filling in for Eric.

After a couple of weeks of discussing the draft, we'll lead off with some chatter about this year's schedule, which was unveiled in full last Thursday.

I like the schedule for 2022. Although at home, playing the Pack out of the gate will be challenging. But if the new coaches and players can rise to the occasion, it'll be a good indication of things to come. We may not win, but as long as we're initially competitive, we'll be OK. Your thoughts?

- Nicholas Balkou

In case you've been celebrating the appearance of better weather with leisure - or yardwork (like me in my free time from covering the Vikings) - and missed the news, Minnesota opens the 2022 regular season at home against Green Bay with a 3:25 p.m. (CT) kickoff on September 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Green Bay has won 13 games in each of the past three regular seasons, claiming the NFC North each time.

One of the truest pearls of wisdom from wrasslin's Ric Flair is "To be the man, you've got to beat the man."

That will be the case in Week 1 as Kevin O'Connell's first season as Vikings head coach launches.

Fan responses varied from excitement for this matchup out of the gate, as well as some that would like more of an acceleration ramp.

I personally think it is a benefit for a new head coach to open at home, but O'Connell won't have to wait long to have Minnesota ready for a road game. The Vikings are scheduled to play the Eagles in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football in Week 2.

That's a pair of playoff teams from last season immediately, and there's strong statistical evidence stacked against teams that open 0-2 making the playoffs.

I honestly wasn't surprised it was Green Bay. Neither, apparently was Eric Kendricks, who said he predicted that would be the matchup and recalled how fun it was to play the Packers in U.S. Bank Stadium's Inaugural Game (Week 2 of 2016).

More of a general question than a Mailbag question. It's set in stone. My son and I will be attending the September 11 kickoff against the Green Bay Packers. Never been to Minnesota. Nor U.S. Bank Stadium. My son is a Patriots fan. I'm hoping this experience will save him! Lol. He's 9. There's still time. Money is not an issue. Just point me in the right direction to maximize our three days in Minnesota and truly get the Vikings experience. SKOL. Thanks for your time.

- Dennis Kraklio

Hey Dennis, that's great that you and your son will be heading to Minnesota for the first time.

I'm biased for how much I appreciate Vikings home games at U.S. Bank Stadium, but we also usually hear positive comments about the venue and atmosphere from other teams' employees.

The rivalry is one of the best in the NFL and in all of sports. The Twin Cities (and the rest of Minnesota) have so much to offer, especially in the fall.

I personally enjoy spending time outdoors, either along the riverfront, the lakes or at Minnehaha Falls, but I'd also like to shamelessly plug a visit to the Minnesota Vikings Museum at Viking Lakes. It has memorabilia and interactive exhibits that span decades, so there's probably some great visuals to bridge your fandom with your son's interest in football.

Hope you have a wonderful trip.

When are we ever going to get to play the Bears and the Packers at home at the end of the season? Seems like it has been a minute.

- Ty Bambach

The Vikings are closing 2022 against the same two teams they played to finish 2021 (Packers and Bears). Like last season, the Week 17 contest will be at Lambeau Field.

And, like in six of eight seasons since 2014, Minnesota will play Chicago to close a regular season. The difference, however, is that this will be the first one at Soldier Field during that stretch. It will be Minnesota's latest trip to Chicago since December 2009 when the Vikings suffered a crushing 36-30 overtime loss to the Bears.

Believe it or not, the Vikings hosted this same combo in this order to close the 2019 season, but Minnesota fell to Green Bay and then opted to rest most starters in the finale because the Bears game did not affect playoff seeding.

I am wondering why the NFL schedule makers would schedule the last two games of the season in the brutal cold of January? Especially when the Vikings have a beautiful enclosed stadium? Go figure!

The weakest position on the Vikings is quarterback. Especially, if Kirk Cousins is out indefinitely. His backups are all question marks. The Vikings don't have the cap space to bring in a quality replacement.

Last but not least, l have noticed that in the last few drafts the Vikings have gone for speed both offensively and defensively. They should be one of the fastest teams in the division. They obviously believe in the old adage "speed kills."

We will see.

- Nick Sabetti in Northglenn, Colorado

I don't have it on authority, but I personally think the NFL likes to have chances at snow games because they can provide some great visuals. The Vikings will do their best to handle the elements, and the potential good thing is they can instill a cold-weather-game mentality in consecutive weeks.

This will include the investment by the Wilf family to install a heating system under two of Minnesota's outdoor practice fields to keep them available as long as possible. It might also involve opening all the doors to the Indoor Practice Facility to acclimate to colder temperatures.

As for the Vikings depth at quarterback, yes, there's not much game experience on the roster behind Cousins, who has been durable since becoming Washington's starter in 2015 and joining the Vikings in 2018. Prior to landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and missing the game at Green Bay last season, the only other game Cousins had not started was that Bears game at the end of 2019. He was withheld from playing against Chicago because the Vikings shifted their focus to facing the Saints in the NFC Playoffs.

Cousins and multiple coaches have been complimentary of what Sean Mannion, 30, adds to the quarterbacks room during every week of preparations. The Vikings also have youngsters Kellen Mond (22) and Nate Stanley (24) on the roster. O'Connell and his staff will obviously put efforts toward developing both this offseason.

One of my favorite players since he was drafted has been Anthony Barr.

I see he's still available but no-one's saying a word about him. It's as if he's disappeared off the face of NFL Land. Nothing since March 23rd. A lifetime ago. No news. No rumors.

Tell us, is his injury that bad that no coach in the league is willing to take a shot? At this stage, I'm sure he'd settled for a cap-friendly contract just so he could remain and retire in Minnesota.

If healthy, who among our linebackers would be better suited for our 3-4 scheme?

- Phil (55 years a fan!)

I've sincerely appreciated covering Barr on and off the field as he blossomed into Minnesota's 2021 Community Man of the Year. He's hosting an "Under Review" fashion and football fundraiser in Minneapolis this Friday for his Raise the Barr foundation to continue helping single-parent students.

Barr is not alone in being a high-profile veteran who remains a free agent. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal released his list of the Top 101 NFL free agents back at the end of February. It has continued to feature updates as players have signed with new teams.

The NFL offseason calendar goes in cycles, with teams focusing on the initial wave of free agency before directing most of their efforts toward the draft. Now, teams are in their offseason programs so they can better assess their rosters and continue to evaluate potential changes. Keep an eye out for additional moves across the NFL in the coming weeks.

We're months away from a depth chart, but it wouldn't be outlandish if the Vikings have Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter as outside linebackers with Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks as interior linebackers.

I have a concern in regards to our center position in terms of a starter and backup. The new coach and general manager may want to watch more tape of the last few years. Do you see any changes being made?

- Craig in Caledonia

O'Connell has expressed support for center Garrett Bradbury at multiple points of the offseason, including saying that the Vikings believe four of the five starting offensive line spots are likely already determined. That presumably would be Christian Darrisaw at left tackle, Ezra Cleveland at left guard, Bradbury at center and Brian O'Neill at right tackle.

That leaves right guard. The Vikings have drafted guards in the top three rounds of each of the past drafts with Ed Ingram this year and Wyatt Davis in 2021.

O'Connell also has talked about how Minnesota's offensive scheme might accentuate Bradbury's best attributes.

But, the Vikings also declined the team's fifth-year option on Bradbury, a first-round pick in 2019. It doesn't mean that Bradbury won't return after this year. It just means the Vikings might want to see how things shake out with him.

Minnesota added veteran offensive linemen Chris Reed, Jesse Davis and Austin Schlottmann during free agency, and the Vikings also signed undrafted rookie center Josh Sokol.

The team's upcoming organized team activity practices over the next three weeks and mandatory minicamp in June hopefully will give coaches a little more info before training camp, but final decisions could be delayed until pads are worn at training camp and in the preseason.

Scanning the current post draft roster, I noticed 22 colleges have multiple players on the team. Seems higher than NFL average. I don't know.

Do they get paired together in housing/motels when possible?

Is there a way to pair the college teammates together to raise charity money for each school by having fun challenges (like sack races, dodge ball, raw egg tossing, carnival type events)? Just thinking fun pr ways to show players out of the norm.

- Mark Leindecker in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

An interesting couple of thoughts from Mark here.

First, that's a great observation with regard to 22 colleges with multiple players on the Vikings offseason 90-man roster. Out of the 90, I counted 12 players who attended colleges in the Carolinas.

In some situations, the college teammates have been drafted in the same year, like Patrick Jones II and Jalen Twyman were out of Pittsburgh in 2021. Other times, players have had a non-linear path from their campuses to Minnesota.

The occurrences likely can be attributed to the strength of certain college programs, an overlap of scouting efforts and possibly some particular system fits.

Connections and commonalities are welcome in building and maintaining relationships, but they aren't a prerequisite. Players have options when it comes to housing.

The team is proud of the various philanthropic efforts that players undergo in the community and has a history of helping.

An egg or water balloon toss could certainly make for some interesting moments.

I think Coach O'Connell will have several ways of strengthening connections throughout the team, which included taking Vikings rookies to the Twins game Saturday. Stay tuned for future coverage of team-building events, as well as this week's open OTA practice and media sessions.

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