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NFL Draft

Minnesota Vikings’ 2020 Season Will Be Successful If…

  • The Draft Network
  • July 7, 2020
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The Minnesota Vikings are finally seeing a return on their quarterback investment. Kirk Cousins, who has finessed top-paying deals while never making it past the divisional round of the playoffs, is coming off the best season of his career. 

Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension in March after posting a 10-5 record with the Vikings; he threw for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions to reach the lowest interception percentage (1.4%) since becoming a starter in 2015 in Washington. Cousins’ deal is now worth $96 million over three years. Minnesota, a mostly veteran team, liked Cousins’ production enough to see where the soon-to-be 32-year-old can take the team in 2020.

What do the Vikings need to do in order to have a successful 2020 season? They need to make a deep playoff run with their veteran talent. Minnesota needs to at least make it to the NFC Championship Game. 

The Vikings haven’t reached the conference championships since 2017, when they lost 38-7 to the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles. Cousins joined the team the following season and found some postseason success, but the eventual 27-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round to end their 2019 playoff run isn’t enough; it isn’t even the minimum of what this team should be doing.

Minnesota has gone 2-2 in the playoffs over the last three years and completely missed the postseason in 2018. The Vikings will have some new looks, most notably in their secondary after moving on from cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and Xavier Rhodes. Minnesota is also without wide receiver Stefon Diggs and defensive end Everson Griffen—unless the Vikings decide to re-sign the latter after he opted out of his contract—but still have stars on both sides of the ball. 

Running back Dalvin Cook and receiver Adam Thielen highlight the offense; although, Minnesota would be wise to reach an agreement with Cook, who is in the middle of contract negotiations. Cook will not be participating in any team activities, according to a recent report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, until a “reasonable extension” agreement is reached. Cook is coming off a breakout season where he recorded 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns along with 519 receiving yards. He wants to get paid like a top-five back, which is where Spotrac estimates his market value, but the Vikings haven’t been willing to reach that number. They would be wise to prioritize getting a deal done, especially after losing a talent like Diggs. 

Part of Cook’s, and Cousins’, success in 2019 was playing behind the re-established offensive line. Cousins’ sack total was nearly cut in half—dropping from 40 in 2018 to 28 last season—as the Vikings cashed in on first-round pick center Garrett Bradbury. They again bolstered the line with 2020 second-round offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland; they also addressed immediate needs in the first round by selecting receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney and continued to add to their defense in the later rounds. Assistant head coach Gary Kubiak’s move to offensive coordinator should continue to improve this unit. Minnesota also brings back four of its five starters on the line.

The existing chemistry can take the offensive front from good to great; it’s a jump the rest of the team needs to make as well. The defense returns defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Anthony Barr, and safety Harrison Smith to help push this unit into the top 10. Minnesota teetered it last season ranking 13th in rushing yards allowed per game (108) and 15th in passing yards per game (233.6).

The Vikings will certainly look a little different, but they’ve kept a large part of what has worked—or what has improved to this point. In order for Cousins to reach the ceiling Minnesota has set with his contract, he needs to maximize the improving offensive line and weapons around him while the defense works to better shut down its opponents. We’ve seen glimpses of what has worked really well on both sides of the ball—the Vikings had the fewest missed tackles (85) in 2019—but the Vikings need to take the next step if they want to continue justifying keeping and paying Cousins.

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