Kirk Cousins was targeted by several Vikings in 2020.
The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line finished the season ranked third in the NFL for pass blocking – not far behind the line’s performance during the Mike Zimmer era.
The Viking team is on the block and has been ranked since 2014:
2014 : 72,4 (23.)
2015 : 67,9 (28.)
2016 : 64,7 (30.)
2017 : 71,9 (17.)
2018 : 63,6 (27.)
2019 : 63,0 (27.)
2020 : 55,5 (29.)
– PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) January 14, 2021
While the success of a team is often dictated by the quarterbacks, to the point where quarterback wins are now a statistic, one former lineman spoke of the criticism the Cousins have received, pointing out that the offensive line was the real problem with the franchise.
Anyone who blames Kirk for what happened is out of their mind. He had an excellent LO when he was in good health in Washington, with the exception of Spencer Long, and the LO was run by an engineer in the person of Bill Callahan. If you looked at the OL, it was all on purpose, every guy in the Viking OL plays with a different technique, said Joe Johnson, an anonymous Purple PTSD lineman.
Sometimes someone does something different based on their skills/abilities, but here the Viking LO doesn’t even seem to have a coach. They seem to have a piece of paper in their hand and someone says to them: Go ahead, figure it out yourself.
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Return of cousins is not enough for the post-season race
Cousins led the league with 10 steals in six games and was so closely watched that he lost his job as a starter. He lost two games to the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Hawks, taking three rotations in each game.
Cousins bounced back to score 24 touchdowns and three interceptions in the final 10 games of the season, helping Minnesota come back strong after starting the season 1-5. Cousins led the offense despite 39 sackings (6th in the NFL). Cousins passing the ball to his teammates allowed the offensive team to score 26.9 points per game, the most points scored by a Viking team since 2009, when Minnesota qualified for the NFC title game with Brett Favre.
The difficulties of defense outweigh the success of Cousins. He finished the season with 35 touchdowns, the most in his career, placing him second in Viking history behind Downing Culpepper’s 39 touchdowns in 2004.
I think he’s much better. He probably had a slow start to the season. I think at the end of the year, he’s played some big games, taken some big shots and done a lot better for the football, Zimmer said. I think he’s had a good year. Unfortunately we couldn’t do better and win a few more games so he could prove himself more.
Vikings need to increase depth in the trenches
Both defensive and offensive lines will be hedged during the off-season.
This season, Minnesota ranks third in the league in success rate (36%). The return of Danielle Hunter should be a big help, but the depth at the position leaves something to be desired as Yannick Ngakowe – a man who played six weeks for the Vikings before being traded to the Baltimore Ravens – has been the leader of the sack team this season. Another quality defensive finish and defensive tackle alongside Michael Pierce should see Minnesota’s defense regain its former glory.
The interior offensive line was the area where Minnesota had the most problems, especially on defense. Dakota Dozier is unlikely to be re-signed. Riley Reiff may have to be released for reasons related to the salary cap, moving Ezra Cleveland to left tackle and opening up a second guard position.
Both lines could be considered under provisional or free agency, although Minnesota would have to separate some veterans to make room for established talent.
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Trevor Squire is a major contributor to the coverage of the Minnesota Vikings and a graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and be part of our Heavy on Vikings community on Facebook.
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