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'True challenge' awaits Barr, Vikings D after offseason changes

The Minnesota Vikings defense underwent a lot of offseason changes. Gone are the likes of Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse.

Given the disrupted offseason by COVID-19, the expectation is that teams returning a lot of veterans will have an advantage over teams experiencing major overhauls this season.

Joining NFL Network's NFL NOW on Friday, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr noted that building communication will be harder this year with fewer veterans on the roster but that he has faith coach Mike Zimmer and his staff will help speed up the process once training camp opens. 

"I think, at least for myself and some of the other guys who have been there, kind of know what to expect," Barr said. "Obviously, we have a lot of new bodies, especially on the back end, some younger guys. It will be important to try to get on the same page. Without OTAs (and offseason workouts), I think that's going to be the biggest hurdle for us, is just the communication part, trying to get everybody to hear voices on the field is so important. You're communicating so much play to play, and that process is really built and that communication and trust is really built in the offseason. So, without having that time spent with those guys, it's going to be a true challenge. But I think we have some pretty strong leaders on our defense, especially. I think we are going to be capable of bridging that gap in terms of the communication."

Despite the changes, Minnesota still boasts some game-changing players in Danielle Hunter, Barr and Eric Kendricks and a dynamite safety duo in Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.

The Vikings defense has been among the best units in the NFL since Zimmer took over in 2014. His defense has never ranked lower than 11th in points per game allowed and been inside the top 10 each of the past five years.

The cornerback crew in Minnesota is particularly green, with the Vikings counting on first-round pick Jeff Gladney and third-rounder Cameron Dantzler to be ready to play snaps right off the bat.

If the Vikings are to remain one of the top units in the NFL amid the turnover during a pandemic, Zimmer might need his best coaching job yet.

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