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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mailbag: On Patterson, Rhodes and potential defensive stars

By Andrew Krammer

Note: Some of these questions were answered on the latest Purple Podcast with Judd Zulgad, Andrew Krammer and ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling. Send any questions you have on Twitter to @Andrew_Krammer, or email, and we’ll often use both the blog and podcast to answer.

The Vikings put a bow on the offseason program this week with a three-day mandatory minicamp. Length ramps up and resembles more of a training camp practice, though they’re still limited to helmets and shorts by NFL rules. During minicamp, teams are allowed to have players at the facility for up to 10 hours per day (six during OTAs). They’re allowed two practices totaling 3.5 hours per day.

Much our focus has been on a retooled offense, so let’s start this mailbag with a look at breakout candidates on defense.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN Which Vikings defensive player is most likely to have a breakout season?

— Johnny Curtis (@Johnny_Curtis) June 10, 2016

AK: This made for a good discussion on the podcast as our picks went Trae Waynes (Zulgad), Danielle Hunter (Goessling) and Anthony Barr (me). Zulgad noted Waynes’ strong showing in spot duty last season and Mike Zimmer’s critical eye that may have held a talented player in the wings longer than he would’ve been in other defenses. On Hunter, Goessling expects a continued ascension after a standout rookie campaign that saw him quadruple his sacks (6.0) from his final college season. This is another good pick as defensive line coach Andre Patterson raves about Hunter’s attention to detail. His age (21) hasn’t held him back as the 6-foot-5-inch Hunter looks like a taller version of the sinewy Everson Griffen.

Last year, the breakout star was nose tackle Linval Joseph. He proved a second year in the system was enough to be a wrecking ball up front, when healthy. We’re grading on a curve with the term ‘breakout,’ so I leaned Barr, who has only been held back by injuries entering his third NFL season. The 24-year-old linebacker has flashed why he was worthy of the ninth-overall pick. He has 10 pass deflections, an interception, 7.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 26 career games. He’s capable of much more as he’s played through a knee injury as a rookie and a handful of ailments, including a broken hand, last season. He missed two starts with a groin injury. Should Barr find some stability health-wise, he can be a regular on highlight reels as a blitzing anvil. He was held back during OTAs again, saying he was “taking it easy for now.” Barr was held back this time last year and returned for some work during mandatory minicamp.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN What does Rhodes need to do to play at a high level all season?

— Steve Noodles (@BCNUZ) June 10, 2016

AK: Rhodes drew some unsolicited praise last week from Mike Zimmer, who noted his improvement in off coverage. That’s one area in which the fourth-year Rhodes needed to focus after allowing five touchdowns in the first seven games of last season. Consistency is the buzzword often used around him, both in coverage and in avoiding penalties. He was the league’s most-penalized defensive back through the first four weeks of last season before settling down and finding success against Atlanta’s Julio Jones by Week 11. That week the Vikings, led by Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith, held Jones to what would be his second-fewest totals in catches (5) and yards (56) of his 1,871-yard season. Rhodes has shown he can play with the league’s best, and now he needs to show that on a weekly basis regardless of the opponent.

@Andrew_Krammer This will be down the road but do you see Barr getting not only top LB money but top defensive money?

— Jeff (@Jeffcn16) June 6, 2016

AK: Two years down the road. Harrison Smith’s extension is the first of what could be a few ‘significant’ in-house deals, as general manager Rick Spielman anticipated this spring. (Next up is likely Xavier Rhodes and/or Sharrif Floyd.) One of those could very well be Barr, who as previously noted needs to find a way to stay healthy. Because of this, I’d start by wondering if he’ll be able to garner top linebacker money before chasing what Super Bowl-champion Von Miller seems to be pursuing in Denver. Should Barr’s contract future follow that of his Vikings teammates like Smith, he’ll have the next two seasons (before his fifth-year option) to show why he’s worth top money. The market for 4-3 outside linebackers isn’t as lucrative as those in a 3-4 system, given the latter’s often-increased role as a pass rusher. As of now, Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David commands the most as a 4-3 OLB at just more than $10 million per season. That number is sure to be leapfrogged by others in the two years Barr has to seize stardom.

If Patterson were to play offensively in 2016, what would his role actually be with Diggs and Treadwell in the mix? https://t.co/KT4nUDqrNJ

— Eric Eager (@EricEager82) June 10, 2016

AK: The early reviews have been good on Patterson, a former first-round pick entering the final year of his rookie deal with the Vikings. The 25-year-old has vowed to improve his route running this offseason and so far head coach Mike Zimmer and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn have said they’re impressed with what they’ve seen. Should he continue to impress in pads through training camp, which also introduces press coverage, then what would a role look like? How about a red-zone package? So far, Patterson and top pick Laquon Treadwell have primarily worked with the second-team offense and backup quarterback Shaun Hill. Those two as 6-foot-2-inch bookends in the top offense intrigues for short-yardage situations. The Vikings ranked 25th in touchdowns per red-zone drive last season, according to Football Outsiders.

Comment regarding Patterson: How much of it’s the QB and the system they have for the QB they are starting? — Maynard

AK: I pulled this from the comment section (gasp!), because there is a point to be reiterated about Patterson’s standout rookie season. It’s forgotten that former coach Leslie Frazier held him back, allowing Patterson to shine on special teams while drawing criticism for not playing him more on offense (first start in Week 11). Much of Patterson’s late-season success was reliant on a coaching staff willing to bend to his inefficiency as a route runner and manufacture touches through screens and handoffs under Bill Musgrave. Norv Turner and his vertical system haven’t made such concessions, trying to make Patterson a deep threat before he proved more worthy as a decoy. Revisit this breakdown for an in-depth explanation. The development of a young quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater also plays a critical role, as an unreliable receiver doesn’t aid that process. The Vikings coaching staff has put the onus on Patterson to improve, and they could use the help after last year’s struggles through the air.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN how has Moritz been adjusting to the NFL? Does he look like a lock to make the roster?

— Lucas brown (@Lucas22vikings2) June 10, 2016

AK: Moritz Böhringer, the Vikings sixth-round pick, has looked as you’d expect for a player who’d never been through the rigor and duration of a NFL day full of meetings and practice. On his first day at rookie minicamp, he had to take a break from drills to throw up lunch on the sideline. During one of the first Organized Team Activity sessions open to media, Böhringer dropped three passes. He certainly looks the part (6-4, 227), and that’s why he has the opportunity. Though like many of his fellow receivers, he is not a lock to make the roster. He may be the farthest behind given where he started. It’ll only intensify from here as four hours are tacked onto Böhringer’s days this week, which is six weeks before training camp and real football begin.

The post Mailbag: On Patterson, Rhodes and potential defensive stars appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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