Kirk Cousins Will Take Vikings as Far as Young, Unproven Offensive Line Allows
On paper, the Minnesota Vikings look like a much improved team from what we saw take the field in 2020. But most of those improvements have been gifted to Mike Zimmer, in order to help fix last year’s hideous defense. What I came here to
talk type about, is an offseason narrative on the other side of the football that has spun out of control.
“No more excuses for Kirk Cousins.”
Hopefully, an entirely revamped defense will mean less points the Vikings have to score on offense to win games. But outside of that, what does Kirk Cousins have in 2021 that he didn’t have in 2020? The only thing I see different on his side of the ball is a younger and less proven offensive line.
So far this offseason, the offense has lost its starting left tackle Riley Reiff, who was one of the few bright spots on that OL in 2020, and replaced him with a 1st-round draft pick who 22 other teams passed on, in Christian Darrisaw.
Then in the 3rd round, Wyatt Davis was drafted out of Ohio State and now our interior OL problems are supposedly solved. Have Vikings fans forgotten all of the disappointment we’ve faced, that stems from drafting offensive linemen out of Ohio State?
And at this point, the Minnesota coaching staff is still holding their OL rookies back. Dakota Dozier might have been the worst offensive guard to ever grace a professional football field last season. But, Dozier is still on the roster and, as of now, taking starter reps over Davis in OTA’s and minicamp. Rashod Hill is currently running with the 1’s at LT.
The Vikings offense is loaded 😳 pic.twitter.com/4nbXUMkHwy— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 12, 2021
Vikings’ first offensive line: Hill-Cleveland-Bradbury-Dozier-O’Neill.— Judd Zulgad (@jzulgad) June 15, 2021
Dose of reality.
In reality, we need to assume this offensive line is currently worse than the one we saw in 2020. That doesn’t mean it will be. But you can’t replace Riley Reiff and Dakota Dozier with 1st and 3rd round rookies and then promise improvement. That’s needs to be proven, especially in this town.
Kirk Cousins has just two years left on his contract with the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted QB Kellen Mond in the 3rd round of April’s draft. At 32, the Vikings are hoping Cousins will use 2021 to launch himself into a new conversation regarding the ceiling of his career. But to do that, he needs wins. Specifically, in the playoffs.
Individual numbers have never been a problem for Kirk but wins and playoff appearances have. If the Vikings miss the playoffs again in 2020, everyone around him will be fired and his status as an NFL franchise QB will be back up in the air. On the bright side, he’ll make $80+ million in the two seasons remaining on his deal. That should help him sleep at night. But his future, beyond the money, will be anyone’s best guess.
Maybe, just maybe…
The above worst case scenario can be “easily” avoided, however. The Minnesota Vikings currently look like far-and-away the best team in the NFC North, especially with Rodgers’ unhappiness in Green Bay. If 2021 goes as Mike Zimmer and the rest of the organization hopes, then Kirk Cousins will cement himself as one of the greatest Minnesota Vikings QB’s in its long history and the Zimmer, Spielman, Cousins era will continue.
If the offensive line does improve and Zimmer’s on-paper defense translates on the field, Kirk Cousins is set up for the best season of his career. An improved offensive line would open even more holes for Dalvin Cook and allow more comfortability for Kirk Cousins. You can easily see all of that snowballing into a play action passing game that allows Thielen, Jefferson and Smith Jr to devastate NFL secondaries all season long.
Minnesota has made 5 such picks in recent years. That group obviously includes:— Eric Smith (@Eric_L_Smith) June 11, 2021
2018: O’Neill (2nd rd.)
2019: Bradbury (1st)
2020: Cleveland (2nd)
2021: Darrisaw (1st), Davis (3rd)
Atlanta and Miami are 2nd with 4 such picks, while 10 teams have picked three. (2/4)
It’s just as easy (and more enjoyable) to imagine that best-case scenario, as it is the worst. In this dream world, the Vikings aren’t losing very many football games. But again, we can’t just assume that to already be the case. We need to see this offensive line in action.
Not done yet?
Rick Spielman still has money to spend this offseason and it’ll be interesting to see whether he uses any of it to beef up the OL. A lot of that probably depends on how much they like their rookie left tackle and right guard during OTA’s and minicamp.
They could also use a WR3 and another DE to line up opposite Danielle Hunter… but a competent offensive line is more important to winning in 2021 than either of those needs.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan