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SI's Conor Orr Lists Secondary as Biggest Weakness of the 2021 Minnesota Vikings

The offensive line would probably be the most popular pick, but the secondary is a question mark too.

I imagine that most people who cover, support, or follow the Minnesota Vikings, when asked to identify the team's biggest weakness, would instinctively go straight to the offensive line. 

It's been an issue for the entire Mike Zimmer era, with the team's lone "decent" O-line in 2017 not coincidentally resulting in their best season under Zimmer. Brian O'Neill is the only one of five starters who has proven himself in the NFL, center Garrett Bradbury and the guard play have been worryingly inadequate, and the two rookies they drafted early this year are unlikely to start right away for different reasons.

You know the story. It's all been discussed at great length, and that won't stop any time soon.

When someone takes a different stance on this particular topic, it's worth discussing. SI's Conor Orr picked the biggest weakness for every team in the NFC, and his choice for the Vikings was not the offensive line, but a different revamped unit: the secondary.

Last year, the Vikings were 21st and 30th respectively in EPA per play allowed out of their two most frequent personnel groupings—nickel and base. While this lack of success was mostly due to a threadbare front seven, the Vikings reacquired Sheldon Richardson and went after Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency to shore up their run defense. That leaves a secondary with Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Cameron Dantzler among others. As the team’s website noted, the Vikings imported 377 games and 272 starts via free agency in the secondary this offseason, which is a lot of experience, but also a lot of age, wear and tear and different schematic backgrounds to combine.

I think I would personally still go with the offensive line, but it's true that the secondary has a wide range of potential outcomes. There are several different factors that could make or break the overall production of that group. 

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The biggest one is the play of veteran outside corners Peterson and Breeland, both of whom have been up and down over the past couple seasons. If Peterson — who has lost 5-10 pounds and seems rejuvenated by a change of scenery — can be closer to the player he was in 2018 and earlier, that's a game-changer. Both guys have plenty of experience and ability, but they desperately need to avoid being penalized as much as they were last year. After a disappointing training camp, Cameron Dantzler has been relegated to the No. 4 corner and will be waiting in the wings if either veteran falters. Nickel corner Mackensie Alexander is less volatile; you know what you're going to get from him.

2021 Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster and Practice Squad Projection, Version 2.0

Another key aspect that will directly affect the secondary is the pass rush. Danielle Hunter and Sheldon Richardson should have big seasons in that regard, but the Vikings need to find others to step up. Someone emerging at the other DE spot would help, whether that's D.J. Wonnum, Stephen Weatherly, or perhaps Everson Griffen. Getting some early-down interior pressure from Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce would also be big. If the pass rush is excellent, the secondary will reap the rewards.

Lastly, the Vikings simply need both of their safeties to stay healthy. Harrison Smith or Xavier Woods missing time would be a very difficult loss to overcome, especially if it's Smith. They just don't have any proven depth behind those two.

Those three factors make the Vikings' secondary a pretty notable question mark heading into the season.

Still, if I was identifying a pure weakness on the roster, it has to be the offensive line until proven otherwise.

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