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10 Minnesota Vikings Who Need To Step Up in 2017 | #7 Mike Remmers

#7 | Mike Remmers

The Vikings brought in a couple of free agent tackles this offseason.  They signed Riley Reiff from the Lions to man the left side, and they also brought in former Viking Mike Remmers who had been recently playing with the Panthers.  Remmers is definitely an upgrade over the rotation that was used a season ago at right tackle.  He’s 6’5 310 lbs and nasty as they come.

Why Remmer’s Performance is so Important
This is easy.  The Minnesota Vikings offensive line was a joke a season ago.  They weren’t very good to begin with and then were ravaged by injuries.  They were literally signing guys off the street to come in and try to protect Sam Bradford and open holes in the running game.  They proved they couldn’t do either.  Remmers, as stated above, is a big upgrade over what was used a season ago.  He’s very experienced, with 37 career starts.  If he can perform even averagely, it will be a huge boost to this offense.  The line needs to give more time to QB Sam Bradford, as he played all last season under duress.  The Vikings running game was also non existent, so hopefully Remmers can help improve both of those things.  If he can, and the offense can sustain longer drives and become more two dimensional, it will help keep the defense off the field, and allow them to be fresh and be able to better implement the attacking style that head coach Mike Zimmer enjoys so much.

Best Case
Remmers comes in and plays very well.  The Vikings suddenly have a running attack, and Sam Bradford gets plenty of time to survey the field and make big time throws.  The defense is able to stay fresh throughout the game, as the offense rarely goes three and out.  The team has a deep playoff run which ends in heartbreak.

Worst Case
Remmers sucks.  He isn’t any better than what was put out there a year ago.  The Vikings still can’t run the ball and Sam Bradford gets repeatedly pounded.   The defense doesn’t play well because they are completely gassed half way through the third quarter.  The team finishes 6-10 and Mike Zimmer’s seat begins to get quite warm.

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10 Vikings Who Need To Step Up in 2017 #8 Jayron Kearse

#8 | Jayron Kearse

This could basically go for any Viking safety but for the sake of this article we’ll pick on Kearse.  Kearse flashed a ton of potential in the preseason of 2016.  He’s got great size and can be a Kam Chancellor type of enforcer if he reaches his potential.  A guy like that would be a great compliment to the ball hawking and multi faceted Harrison Smith on the other side.

Why Kearse’s Performance is so Important

The Vikings basically know what they have in current starting safety Andrew Sendejo.  He’s an average at best player who can occasionally make  a big play.  He is by no means anything special and looks like he’ll never take the next step into a solid starter.  So that leaves the job wide open for a guy like Kearse to come in and take it.  If the Vikings can find a guy who can make some big plays next to Harrison Smith that would be huge for this defense.  Defenses would no longer be able to pick on the guy opposite Smith and would have to throw the ball his way more times.  This could lead to some big plays for the Hitman and this defense as a whole.

Best Case
Kearse’s play improves and he earns the starting spot.  He plays up to his potential and makes some big time hits that make would be ball carriers afraid to go his way.  Harrison Smith benefits from this as well and the secondary begins making game changing plays week in and week out.

Worst Case
Kearse can’t win the starting job and neither can anyone else.  The Vikings are once again stuck using a committee at safety and teams attack that side of the field, leaving a huge weakness in the Vikings defensive armor yet again.

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Ten Minnesota Vikings Who Need To Step Up In 2017 | #9 Mackensie Alexander

#9 | Mackensie Alexander

The Vikings got next to nothing out of their 2016 Draft class in it’s first year.  One of the bigger disappointments from that class was second round pick out of Clemson, CB Mackensie Alexander.  Though undersized, Alexander was a true shutdown corner in college, and the team had high hopes for him as a rookie.  Instead he struggled on the field, getting routinely picked on, and ultimately saw little playing time.

Why Alexander’s Performance is so Important

The Vikings play in a division with some of the best quarterbacks in the league.  They have to face both Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers twice a year.  When facing those quarterbacks and receivers, it is very helpful to have plenty of good corners on your roster.  The Vikings already have a great defensive line who can provide tons of pressure on qbs.  If they can get 3 0r 4 good corners to slow down some of these targets, it will make that pass rush even more effective, and possibly vault this defense to become the very best in the entire NFL.  The team also realizes that Terrence Newman is already playing well beyond his years, and this could be his last season on the field.  So it becomes even more imperative that Alexander blossoms into a solid cover man and that will make the transition of losing Newman easier for this defense to take next season.

Best Case
Alexander improves greatly in year two. He becomes the nickel corner and the Vikings secondary is able to shut down team’s top three targets.  This gives the Vikings defensive front seven even more time to get after passers, and they become one of the best defenses in the league.

Worst Case
Alexander continues to struggle.  He does make the team, but is the 5th cornerback.  This puts the aging Terrence Newman and Marcus Sherels ahead of him on the depth chart. Those two aren’t able to adequately cover their men, leaving the back end of the Vikings secondary vulnerable.  Team’s take note of this and the Vikings’ defense struggles against the pass all season long.

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5 Potential Surprise Minnesota Vikings Cuts

Every year guys get cut that no one sees coming. So we will try to take some of the surprise factor out of it and predict some of those potentially shocking cuts the team could make this preseason.

5. Kentrell Brothers, Linebacker

Brothers was, and even after a disappointing rookie season, still is a Draftseason favorite.  This guy is undersized, but can cover a ton of ground and is a true tackling machine.  The problem is, he’s out with a leg injury.  The Vikings have a lot of linebackers in camp, and the only ones assured of starting jobs are Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks.  Which means this is a wide open battle and Brothers can’t afford to miss any time. With guys like Edmund Robinson, Emannuel Lamur, and Ben Gedeon getting reps every day, time is of the essence to Brothers.  If this injury lingers, the team may just find him expendable.

4. Marcus Sherels, Cornerback

Could this be it for Sherels? The former Gopher has been one of the best punt returners in the league and has added some needed depth at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart. It seems every year he is on the roster bubble and this year will be no different. Sherels will be 30 in September and with the additions of rookie returnman Rodney Adams AND McKinnon dabbling as a return guy it might make the fan favorite expendable. What Sherels DOES have going for him is once again the lack of depth at corner. So I think this one come down to how well the other corners perform in preseason.

3. Tom Johnson, Defensive Tackle

For a few seasons now Tom Johnson has been the unsung hero of the Vikings defensive line.  He was never a starter, but would always seem to make one or two splash plays a game, and would provide plenty of interior pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  Last year though, Johnson’s production decreased.  He had just 17 tackles with two sacks.  He did miss a few games but he just didn’t seem like the same player.  Now the team has brought in some competition in 4th round pick Jaleel Johnson and free agent Datone “Mother F’n” Jones.  One of two things will happen.  Johnson will get a fire lit under his massive tookus, or he will continue to falter and get beat out by these guys.  If that happens, he could end up being one of the final guys cut before the team trims down to 53.

2. Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver

Wright was no favorite of the Vikings coaching staff a year ago, as he was rarely used.  He has proven to be an effective weapon out of the slot and can be utilized out of the backfield on jet sweeps and quick hitters.  The team could opt to go with a youth movement at wide receiver, which would make Wright expendable.  This would be shocking, as Wright was quite involved in the number one offense in camp, at least when I was in Mankato.  Instead of flat out cutting him, maybe the Vikings could trade him to a receiver needy team, and get some sort of compensation for this still talented pass catcher.

1. Latavius Murray, Running Back

Murray is a talented runner.  He’s got great burst and is powerful too.  The problem is, he just isn’t healthy.  He was off practicing on his own, or with Bridgewater in camp.  In the meantime, rookie Dalvin Cook was busy taking the majority of first team reps.  If Murray can’t get on the field soon, he may fall too far behind.  The team only signed him to a three year, team friendly deal, and may just decide to cut their losses with an injury settlement.  If that does come to pass, it’s likely we’d see Cook, McKinnon, and then either Sankey or Ham as the Vikings’ backs in 2017.

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Ten Minnesota Vikings Who Need to Step Up in 2017 | #10 Pat Elflein

#10 | Pat Elflein

The Vikings moved up in round 3 in the 2017 NFL Draft to land the talented and versatile interior lineman from Ohio St.  Elflein is a tough, physical blocker who can play center or guard.  It’s not real fair to put a rookie on this list, but with how bad the Vikings’ line was a season ago, the team needs him to contribute sooner than later.

Why Elflein’s Performance is so Important

The Vikings offensive line wasn’t overly talented when the 2016 season began, but then injuries hit like the plague. By mid season they were signing pretty much any guy they could off the street.  The team couldn’t get any push or open up any holes in the run game.  Pass protection was an absolute joke, and it’s a true miracle that QB Sam Bradford wasn’t seriously injured from all the shots he took.  If Elflein can come in and either lock down the starting center or right guard spot, that would be a major improvement over what was on the field a year ago.  Elfein’s nasty style of play is very much needed on this puppy dog offensive line.  He can open up lanes in the running game, which would make the offense much more balanced.  It would allow the Vikings to sustain drives and keep the defense off the field and fresher as the game progresses.

Best Case
Elflein wins a starting spot.  He is as advertised, and his physical blocking style improves the Vikings running game, and also gives more time to Sam Bradford in the pocket.  The offense benefits as a whole, and becomes a top 15 unit in the league.

Worst Case
Elflein struggles in his adjustment to the NFL game.  He doesn’t earn a starting spot, which leaves Nick Eason at center and Joe Berger at guard.  The offensive line is again sub par, and the Vikings offense has trouble running the ball, as well as keeping Sam Bradford clean in the pocket.

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