The Minnesota Vikings have been consistent if unspectacular with Kirk Cousins at the helm on offense. But with wide receiver Stefon Diggs off to Buffalo and former offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski now the head man in Cleveland, things will look a little bit different on that side of the ball.
Fortunately for Minnesota, the Vikings have veteran coordinator Gary Kubiak to take over calling the shots. In part two of our Q&A, Daily Norseman’s Eric Thompson was kind enough to answer a few questions about how things may come together with Kubiak and company on offense.
Acme Packing Company: On offense, how do you think the Vikings will look with Gary Kubiak taking over for Kevin Stefanski?
Eric Thompson: It will be interesting to see just how different the Vikings offense looks with Kubiak calling the shots. Obviously he had an influence on the game plans last year, but it sounds like there will be some key differences. The Vikings ran 11 personnel less than any other team last year; the team has talked using more three- and four-receiver sets this season. The offense relied a lot on play-action and rollouts last year, almost to the point where it was a crutch at times. I’d still expect a lot of those elements, but with new wrinkles added to what they showed last year to keep defenses honest. Being predictable is the worst thing an offense can do in today’s NFL; it sounds like Kubiak will try to bring more variance in his approach.
Of course without any preseason games and minimal access to camp practices, we won’t really know until the game kicks off on Sunday.
APC: Kirk Cousins is a bit of a divisive player throughout the league. He’s rarely spectacular, but frequently very good and the Vikings have been generally successful since he came over from Washington. What’s your outlook on Cousins heading into his third year with the Vikings?
At this point, it feels like Cousins is who he is. He’s a very good quarterback when things go as scripted and he has time to work through his progressions. Cousins is incredibly accurate and has proven that he can make just about any throw. He’s great out of play action and can make throws on the move. However, things quickly fall apart when he’s forced to improvise, especially when pressure comes up the middle. The Packers forced him off script more than any other team last year, and as a result he had his two worst performances of the regular season. Hopefully Kubiak can make enough tweaks to the game plan to help Cousins have more success this time around.
The bottom line: you can certainly win plenty of football games with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Just don’t expect it to do it all by himself.
APC: How big of a loss is Stefon Diggs? He made plenty of waves and plenty of plays in Minnesota. How much will the team miss him?
ET: What the Vikings will miss the most about Diggs is his ability to stretch the field. Adam Thielen is a fine WR1 and has plenty of speed, but a good chunk of his success was predicated on how Diggs kept defenses honest down the field. Many fans won’t miss Diggs’ barrage of cryptic tweets; it was pretty clear that he wanted a change of scenery. (Being unhappy with Cousins not getting you the ball enough and then relying on Josh Allen to do so might be the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” scenario, but I digress. I hope he does well in Buffalo.) Of course the Vikings drafted someone in the first round who they hope will be Diggs’ replacement, but it’s unfair to expect a rookie to replace what Diggs did for the Minnesota offense. His departure will certainly be felt.
APC: The Vikings added Justin Jefferson in the first round in part as a replacement for Diggs. He was a popular mock draft target for the Packers. What do you expect from the rookie wide receiver?
ET: I won’t lie — it brought me a ton of joy to see Packers fans react to each team’s first-round picks on Twitter. Jefferson is a special talent that should be able to help the Vikings offense right away, especially with the aforementioned departure of Diggs. Bisi Johnson had a great camp and is still listed ahead of Jefferson on the wide receiver depth chart, but I expect that we’ll see plenty of the rookie on Sunday, especially out of the slot. Again, I don’t expect him to instantly replace Diggs’ production, but there is certainly cause for excitement about Jefferson’s potential.