The Vikings are an interesting case in the media. Some analysts think that the Vikings are the exact same team they were in the last few years, an average team. Some folks believe that a Kirk Cousins-led team always gravitates towards the middle of the league.
However, the opposite opinion is quite popular as well. A possibly dynamic offense held back by the football philosophy of former head coach Mike Zimmer. An unleashed Cousins connecting with a plethora of weapons in the passing game orchestrated by the new offensive mastermind Kevin O’Connell is the idea of many optimists about the purple team.
Both scenarios are possible. Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport is a believer in the second thought process:
There has been plenty written and said about the downfall of Mike Zimmer as head coach in Minnesota—and most of it hasn’t been kind.
– Gary Davenport
Davenport continues by quoting Ben Leber about the strange case of Zimmer not liking Cousins. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you’re clearly in the minority. It isn’t really newsworthy in July 2022. Long story short: Zimmer didn’t like Cousins.
Leber proceeded by saying that the Vikings’ offense played well last year but was held back by the defense, and to some extent, by Zimmer himself.
Buying the Bounce-Back Hype
Davenport explained why he’s buying the possibility of a Minnesota redemption tour in 2022.
Kirk Cousins may not be a great quarterback. But he threw 33 touchdown passes last year against just seven interceptions and ranked fourth in the league in passer rating. With a capable line in front of him, ample skill-position talent around him and an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O’Connell, big numbers from Cousins in 2022 aren’t out of the question.
Add in a defense that added pieces like Jordan Hicks and Za’Darius Smith in the offseason and should get back a healthy Danielle Hunter, and you have the makings of a team that could give the Green Bay Packers a run for their money in the NFC North.
– Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report, about the 2022 Vikings
If O’Connell can unleash the offense and make Cousins feel more comfortable in leading the team, the sky is the limit for a good quarterback that has weapons galore around him.
The Vikings offense should be an average unit in the worst case. The bigger question mark is the defense. Their floor is a bottom five, absolutely atrocious unit. However, the Vikings have added the right pieces. Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter rushing from the edge is a phenomenal duo. Both are good run defenders on the edge as well. That’s something the Vikings missed in the last couple of seasons.
In the middle of the line, the Vikings have a multitude of run stuffers. Former Buffalo Bills defender Harrison Phillips signed in free agency, and completes a trio with Dalvin Tomlinson and 2021 surprise, Armon Watts.
The linebacking group lost Anthony Barr but almost signed a copy of him, but with more durability. Jordan Hicks, a veteran leader, and rookie Brian Asamoah complete a group that is led by Eric Kendricks.
In the secondary, Harrison Smith is still the fixture at safety. Right next to him will play first-round pick Lewis Cine. General manager Adofo-Mensah also tried to fix the struggling cornerback spots. The solid Patrick Peterson re-signed with the team, Cameron Dantzler is expected to have a big year, and Andrew Booth was a second-round pick. Chandon Sullivan is handling the duties in the slot. Ed Donatell brings a new scheme, the Vic Fangio scheme. Possibly a system that’s better suited for today’s NFL.
Vikings Are a Different Team
The organization put a lot of resources into the defense in recent years, and it still didn’t work. This time, it has to work. A defense is absolutely necessary for team success. Even if O’Connell can infuse the explosiveness into the offense, the team can’t win without a capable defense. Football is still the ultimate team sport.
The goal for the upcoming season has to be to find a way to be balanced, a balanced team without weak spots. That will be the most significant task of the front office led by Adofo-Mensah and head coach O’Connell with his coaching staff. Their task was to bring positive energy into the building, and they delivered. Implementing the scheme, coaching up players, and finding the starting lineup is next on the agenda.
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