The Vikings’ offense continues to be a work in progress, but patience won’t last long


The Vikings’ opening possession of the season couldn’t have been better.

Kirk Cousins capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring pass to Justin Jefferson on fourth-and-one A 23-7 win over the Green Bay Packers. It was the type of production many expected when offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was hired from the Super Bowl champion Rams to install a similar scheme as Vikings coach.

Unfortunately, most of the subsequent series did not live up to expectations.

In 19 possessions since the Vikings have just two touchdowns. The team’s possession and drive pattern is ugly 24-7 loss Monday night in Philadelphia read like this: punt, punt, touchdown, punt, punt, interception, interception, punt, interception, game over.

cousins three picks in the second half came from the Eagles’ 19-, 27- and 9-yard lines. That’s not what anyone had in mind when O’Connell was hired to replace Mike Zimmer, expecting him to create a Cousins-friendly offense. While Zimmer and Cousins ​​have rarely had meaningful conversations, O’Connell is the guy who calls Cousins’ helmet plays on game day and works with him during the week.

The coach and defenseman are involved in this together, but so far the partnership has not paid off in points. As ugly as Monday’s loss was for the Vikings, the Eagles made a lot of mistakes and gave Minnesota a chance to rally.

Watching the Vikings go through training camp, it was clear that installing and implementing this system would be a work in progress. Cousins ​​and wide receiver Adam Thielen were among those who spoke about the complexities of the system, and Cousins ​​acknowledged that the scheme has changed a lot since O’Connell was his coach in 2017 in Washington.

There will be those who argue that Cousins ​​and the forward — not to mention O’Connell — could have gotten some valuable reps during the preseason if the skills of the first-team players were utilized. But O’Connell wisely bucked the trend, not wanting to risk hurting key players in any of the three meaningless exhibitions.

There was a time when the first team on both sides played in the first half of the third preseason game, but that has been changed now that the exhibition schedule has been reduced to three games per team. Bringing in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Cousins ​​and others for a few plays wouldn’t change the current running of the offense and would be too much of a risk.

The Vikings are averaging 15 points per game, which ranks 25th in the league in scoring. Jefferson has 15 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns, but Thielen has just seven catches for 88 yards and was not caught once in the first half Monday night. KJ Osborne, the Vikings’ third receiver, has just five catches for 39 yards.

Cook had a career-high six touchdowns Monday and the Vikings ran the ball just 11 times. In the first two games, Cook had 26 carries for 107 yards. He had 20 or more carries in seven of the 13 games he played in last season and 42 in the first two games of 2021.

Zimmer’s over-reliance on the run has drawn valid criticism, but 11 rushing attempts in a tough road game won’t do the trick. O’Connell knows this and knows that there are adjustments to be made and a lot of things that need to be fixed quickly. The first will ensure that Cousins ​​has a much better game than he did against the Eagles, when he looked nothing like the quarterback who showed poise in the pocket against the Packers.

“I thought we definitely could have helped him a little bit more,” O’Connell said, “and I think Kirk would be the first to tell you that there were some plays all over the place where the second in the half we… including me – pressed a little, trying to do a lot successfully. When it really comes down to it, you watch this tape very carefully. Offensively, we left a lot of yards there. We left a lot of plays there to be done, whether it was catching the football or just the details in what we were doing.”

So when will this offense start to click?

Sunday’s game should provide a great opportunity. The Lions (1-1) rank second to last in the NFL in scoring defense (32.5 points per game), trailing only the Arizona Cardinals (33.5). O’Connell talked about Cook getting more involved, and it’s unlikely that Thielen will be the forgotten man again.

​​​​​​While the focus will be on Cousins ​​to see how he rebounds, O’Connell knows the focus will also be on his play. He admitted that in the 2nd week he fell short in this area.

“Looking back on it, should we have returned it all at once?” O’Connell said of his approach. “Should we have tried to equalize quickly or should we have just played smart and played the right way? I think it kind of starts with me and then goes to our staff and players first. That’s 100 percent why I think I could have been better for our group.”

O’Connell will likely get a few more weeks to get things right before impatience sets in. This is good news. The bad news is that the clock is ticking for this unfinished crime to turn into a finished (and successful) product.

The story originally appeared on Vikings Wire

The Vikings’ offense continues to be a work in progress, but patience won’t last long

Source link The Vikings’ offense continues to be a work in progress, but patience won’t last long