MINNEAPOLIS -- Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for this week's Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can submit them at any point during the week on Twitter, using the hashtag #VikingsMail.
@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. We'll get started here. I don't think we can say that definitively; Johnson had a drop last week, and though he's had some nice moments, I wouldn't say he's separated himself from the group. But the fact that this is even an open question tells you how little has gone according to plan for the Vikings' passing game. It's difficult to separate the performance of the Vikings' receivers from the play of a rookie quarterback and the poor job the Vikings' offensive line has done protecting Teddy Bridgewater, but when they invested $18 million guaranteed in Greg Jennings and gave up three picks to get Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013, they should be getting more than they are. Jennings is a prime candidate for a contract restructuring after this season; he's scheduled to count $11 million against the cap in 2015, when he will turn 32, and has no guaranteed cash left in his deal. With 40 catches through 11 games, it's doubtful he'll play at that cap figure next year.
@GoesslingESPN: I'm not sure how much of a "priority" it will be, per se, but I do think it's the spot on the offensive line where a change is most likely. Charlie Johnson's 2015 contract doesn't include any guaranteed money, and the Vikings would save $2.5 million by cutting him. He's also played tackle before, and could be a good backup option at a couple spots (though I have a hard time seeing the Vikings keep a backup at that price). They could give David Yankey a shot at left guard, now that he'll have had a year in a NFL strength training program (remember, he didn't join the team until June), and it wouldn't shock me to see them invest a mid-round draft pick in an interior lineman. San Francisco's Mike Iupati is the top unrestricted free agent on the market, but I think it's more likely the Vikings would give Yankey a chance to compete for the job than it is that they would spend big money on an outside player.
@GoesslingESPN: The Vikings have used it at different points this season, but haven't gone to it on a regular basis; according to ESPN Stats & Information, Teddy Bridgewater has 19 dropbacks that came with 30 seconds or fewer between plays. Nineteen quarterbacks have sped up the pace of their offense more often than that, and as the Vikings look for ways to get Bridgewater in a rhythm, they could try to use a no-huddle more often. Coach Mike Zimmer said this about it on Friday: "A lot of it is how fast the defense is getting their signals in, how they're communicating. Sometimes it's after a couple of plays where you've caught them off guard a little bit, sometimes it's just trying to change the tempo. There are several reasons that we do it but it's real simple how we do it. It's not complicated."
That said, I do think the Vikings could look to incorporate more of it, not just for the sake of catching opponents off guard. Bridgewater has looked more comfortable playing at a faster pace so far, and that might be reason enough to speed up the offense. You do have to guard against what Zimmer talked about earlier this week, though -- it doesn't help your defense if you go three-and-out, take a minute off the clock and put your defense right back on the field.
@GoesslingESPN: Listening to Zimmer tell it, he's not concerned with playing for the future while there are still games to win now; he's very much focused on the present, and I'm not sure how much lineup shuffling you'll see the Vikings do with the playoffs no longer a viable option. That said, there are plenty of things the Vikings can accomplish in the final weeks of the season. Here are three goals for the season's final weeks, in no particular order: Figure out if Matt Kalil can get back on track (or if there's a larger problem with him), continue to develop Patterson into a viable split end, and get Bridgewater to a point where he can close the year with another impressive performance or two like he had against Atlanta. The Vikings' future is wrapped up in their first-round picks -- particularly on offense, where their identity is changing -- and of the seven they've had in the last three years, the three on offense (Kalil, Patterson and Bridgewater) probably still have the most questions. They won't get complete answers to those questions this year (certainly not with Bridgewater), but the Vikings need to determine if they can build a foundation with the players they've taken high in the draft. That's especially true for Kalil, who looked like the most fail-proof pick of the first round and has a contract decision looming.
That'll do it for this week. Thanks for the great questions, everyone. Hope you enjoy your Saturday, and we'll talk to you from TCF Bank Stadium -- the soon-to-be home of Paul Bunyan's Axe -- on Sunday.