Every Thursday morning, we’ll answer your questions via email or Twitter submitted for our Access Vikings podcast and post-game Overtime videos using the hashtag #AVOT on Twitter.
From @therealforno: When do we need to make paying Adam Thielen a priority? When will his contract become an issue?
AK: The Vikings are fortunate in that, at least as those close to Thielen say, he’s not the type of person to hold out in a contract demand. He’s the NFL’s best contract value and it might not even be close. Think about this: the NFL’s second-leading receiver with 589 yards in five games is currently the 48th-highest paid at his position based on the $4.8 million average on which he’s playing. The other two guys around him on the current leaderboard, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, are making nearly $10 million more per season. So, what’s next? Perhaps the Vikings approach Thielen’s camp next offseason about possibly giving him a contract that aligns with Stefon Diggs’ $14.4 million average that was signed this past summer.
From @reitan77: Is the three-safety nickel the base defense? Reminds me of how AZ used Deone Bucannon.
AK: No, the Vikings still predominantly use a three-cornerback nickel defense this season. However, the snaps were basically split down the middle in Philadelphia between a corner or safety in the slot. The snaps vs. Eagles went as follows: corner Mackensie Alexander (47%), safety Jayron Kearse (36%) and safety George Iloka (12%). That partly had to do with rookie corner Mike Hughes forced to play full time on the outside with Trae Waynes out due to a concussion. Otherwise, Hughes would’ve played in the slot. But we are seeing Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff tinker with personnel in these packages a lot more. Some spread-dominant offenses, like the Packers, Rams and Eagles, essentially forced the Vikings to play nickel throughout the entire game. “I kind of like it more honestly,” Zimmer said. “Because I can get a lot more creative with a lot of things we can do when we’re in the nickel stuff than we do in the base stuff.”
From @dstahlhopkins: Why don’t they let Latavius Murray get the majority of the plays and carries? He can wear teams down. They are giving the rookie running back too many plays.
AK: Murray did get the majority of plays against the Eagles – 74 percent, to be exact. The Vikings just didn’t run between the tackles very much while being outmatched by Fletcher Cox. They liked rookie Roc Thomas’ speed better as they game planned perimeter runs; it worked as Thomas and Stefon Diggs picked up 37 rushing yards on outside runs in the first half. The problem with the run game isn’t who is carrying the ball – it’s the blocking. The Vikings’ blockers are the NFL’s second worst at producing yardage before contact, according to ESPN’s Stats & Info department, with 157 rushing yards before contact ranking ahead of only the Buccaneers’ 130 rushing yards. It’s not a volume problem, neither, since the Vikings’ 2.0-yard average before contact also ranks among the worst in the league.
From @MichaelMSweeney: I was traveling and could not watch the game. How do you grade out the offensive line?
AK: It’s fair to wonder if the current group is capable of better. The Vikings field at least two backup-level linemen who are currently starting in tackle Rashod Hill and guard Tom Compton. Hill was pegged with a team-leading six pressures allowed against the Eagles, but the leaks sprung from all directions. Fletcher Cox had four of the Eagles’ 10 hits on Kirk Cousins, beating each of the interior linemen for at least one. The Vikings’ hope should be center Pat Elflein gets his feet under him a little more moving forward. He’s had a few bad snaps since returning to the lineup and has room to grow in terms of moving bodies out of the way. Rookie Brian O’Neill has held his own in pass protection, for the most part, and the Vikings might need him again Sunday with left tackle Riley Reiff nursing a foot injury. Coordinator John DeFilippo will need to remain creative in the run game, because this offensive line doesn’t have many bulldozers.