When the Vikings changed their coaching staff after the conclusion of the 2021 season, it was obvious that the 2022 Vikings would be a different-looking team. New faces automatically mean a different approach. The organization went from a defensive-oriented head coach to an offensive one. Kevin O’Connell, the new sheriff in town, has to implement a new offensive system. Vikings fans and future opponents have one thing in common: They don’t know what the offense will look like.
O’Connell comes from the Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams. Sean McVay is in charge of their offense, but O’Connell designed the gameplans and the plays for the team. The Vikings’ offense will likely look similar to some extent in the upcoming season.
Of course, the Vikings have different players with different strengths, and O’Connell has to account for it. One example is the difference in offensive lines, the Rams had an elite one in pass protection, and the Vikings, meanwhile, had one of the worst. The Vikings, however, have an elite running back, and the new coach will certainly try to find a way to use his skill set.
K.J. Osborn appeared on KFAN with Paul Allen on his radio show ´9 to Noon.´ He was asked how different the new offense is compared to the old one and gave a few promising remarks.
I would say it has some similarities but I mean we’re moving around a lot more. Obviously, it’s a lot more 11 personnel on the field. That’s what a lot of people are talking about. There are just so many different things that we can do. It’s easier even to get the play [in] or our whole playbook just at the line of scrimmage without having to huddle. There are some differences, there are some similarities but at the end of the day, we’re really excited.
K.J. Osborn about the new offense on KFAN
A few things to unpack. ‘Some similarities’ probably means the scheme. It’s still a zone running game with a play-action passing attack. That’s what the Vikings ran and what the Shanahan/McVay tree runs.
Similarities can also mean the same players with the same skills. Thielen doesn’t suddenly start to run a 4.3 40-yard dash because of a scheme change, and Cousins won’t just become the most relentless gunslinger in the league. The player types stay the same but can be used more efficiently.
The next phrase to unpack is ‘We’re moving around more.’ This likely refers to pre-snap motion. The Vikings rarely used it in 2021, while O’Connell’s Rams used it frequently. Osborn could be a significant factor in that department. It’s a good way to create mismatches for the defense. And even if it’s matched up nicely, the defense needs some time to adapt to the new look.
A lot has already been talked about the 11-personnel. 11-personnel is when teams have three wide receivers, one running back, and one tight end on the field. The Rams used it the most in the NFL, with 84.9%. The Vikings, on the other hand, used it just on just 42.5%, 29th in the league. An antiquated approach of offensive football in the 2020s, the time of high-powered and electric offenses.
11 personnel fits the Vikings’ offense. It allows them to have the top three wideouts, Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn, on the field, but also Cook and Irv Smith. However, it doesn’t include C.J. Ham. Ham is a big part of the offense, and O’Connell won’t forget to use him, so to come even close to the 84.9% is a stretch. But more 11-personnel could help the offense reach its full potential.
The final part of his answer was directed at getting the play in without the need to huddle. In recent years, the Vikings struggled with that. It’s tough to say why. It’s possible that the playbooks didn’t make it easy for the team to execute a no-huddle offense. In 2021, the Vikings ran 60 plays without a huddle, which ranked them 25th leaguewide, while the Rams had 180 plays, the third most.
Sixty plays is not a lot, considering the multitude of close games last season. The advantages of a no-huddle offense are broad. A defense can’t substitute, so if the defensive package doesn’t fit the offense, it keeps that bad package on the field, and the offense can take advantage of it. It can also tire out the defense.
A few different wrinkles in the offensive system can unlock the offense. O’Connell has Kirk Cousins, a solid QB who can execute gameplans at a high level. The Vikings also have a plethora of weapons at their disposal. Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn are one of the elite trios in the league, while Irv Smith can provide playmaking ability in the middle of the field.
Dalvin Cook will be used more in the passing game, but his running ability will be another big part of the Vikings’ offense in 2022. If O’Connell can unleash the offense and transform the unit into an explosive one, the sky is the limit for the team. Especially at the beginning of the season, opponents have no idea what the Vikings will do.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt