2018 Season Recap: Minnesota Vikings
Division: NFC North
Record: 8-7-1 (3-2-1 vs. Division) (2^(nd) in NFC North) (Missed Playoffs)
Heading into the 2018 season, Minnesota Vikings fans had every reason to be optimistic about their teams' future. They were a young, hot team coming off of a 13-3 season that included one of the NFL's most memorable plays in recent memory. They had also gone out of their way to grab what they believed to be their "missing piece" in quarterback Kirk Cousins. He would be paired with a young and up-and-coming offensive mind: Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
If that weren't enough, the Vikings then proceeded to bolster their already-dominant defense with the signing of former Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson and selected cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round of the NFL Draft. Star defenders Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter were also handed lucrative multi-year extensions.
From top to bottom, the Vikings were locked and loaded for another postseason run. With all of these additions to a team that was already one game away from a Super Bowl, there's no way the Vikings were going to miss the playoffs, right? Right???
Wrong. Despite having a winning record, the 2018 season was somewhat of a squandered opportunity for Minnesota. Although they had plenty of talent on both sides of the football, the Vikings never seemed to reach their full potential.
In the following piece, I, along with other members of the Vikings community, will be taking a look back on the 2018 season, and how the team can get back to their 2017 form. So, with all of that said, please enjoy this rendition of 32 Teams/32 Days: The Minnesota Vikings.
|Shamar Stephen||DT||Seattle Seahawks|
|Tom Johnson||DT||Seattle Seahawks||Re-joined Vikings in September|
|Jeremiah Sirles||OL||Carolina Panthers||Released then signed by Buffalo in September|
|Emmanuel Lamur||LB||Oakland Raiders||Waived then signed by Jets in December|
|Jarius Wright||WR||Carolina Panthers|
|Tramaine Brock||CB||Denver Broncos|
|Jerick McKinnon||RB||San Francisco 49ers||4-year, $30 million contract|
|Teddy Bridgewater||QB||New York Jets||Traded to Saints in August|
|Sam Bradford||QB||Arizona Cardinals|
|Case Keenum||QB||Denver Broncos||Starting quarterback in 2017|
|Kyle Carter||TE||New York Giants||Released; current free agent|
|Joe Berger||G/C||Retired||Starting guard in 2017|
|Terence Newman||CB||Retired||Re-joined Vikings as assistant coach|
|Michael Floyd||WR||Washington Redskins|
|Shariff Floyd||DT||Free Agent|
|Bishop Sankey||RB||Free Agent||Signed with San Diego Fleet (AAF)|
|Shaan Washington||LB||Free Agent|
Heading into the 2018 offseason, the biggest story (by far) regarding the Minnesota Vikings was their quarterback situation. They had not one, not two, but all three of their quarterbacks with starting experience set to leave in free agency. Initially, it was hoped that the Vikings would re-sign at least one of them, but as time progressed it became more clear that it would not be the case. With Bridgewater, Keenum, and Bradford all out, only undrafted free agent Kyle Sloter remained at the team's quarterback spot. Finding a new signal-caller became an instant priority heading into free agency.
Aside from losing the "big three" at quarterback, the biggest departure of the 2018 offseason was running back Jerick McKinnon. Although he was never the go-to guy (Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray were the team's leading rushers before Cook tore his ACL), McKinnon displayed plenty of speed, vision, and catching ability in his limited role in Minnesota's offense. This led to the San Francisco 49ers handing him a massive 4-year, $30 million contract in free agency.
The retirement of Joe Berger, while not a big name, was a rather significant departure for the Vikings, as well. Berger was a backup interior lineman for the majority of his career, and didn't start a full 16-game season until his 10^(th) in 2015. During his seven-year span with the team, Berger provided a strong veteran presence to an offensive line that wasn't without its' fair share of struggles. The highlight of his career was his 2015 season, where he was graded as the league's best run blocker by Pro Football Focus.
The Vikings also lost two defensive starters in Terence Newman and Tom Johnson, although they ended up back with the team in some capacity later on. Johnson, along with fellow defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks at the beginning of free agency. The stint in Seattle didn't work out, and Tom "Sebastian Thunderbucket" Johnson was a Viking once again.
As for Terence Newman, the aging defender was originally re-signed to play for the 2018 season, but was quickly identified as the odd man out in a stellar cornerback group. So, Newman retired but was brought back in to Mike Zimmer's staff as an assistant defensive backs coach.
Free Agent Signings
|Kirk Cousins||QB||3 years, $84 million (fully guaranteed)|
|Kendall Wright||WR||1 year, $2 million||Did not make final roster|
|Tom Compton||G/T||1 year, $900,000|
|Nick Dooley||LS||--||Did not make final roster|
|Josiah Price||TE||--||Did not make final roster|
|Sheldon Richardson||DT||1 year, $8 million|
|Trevor Siemian||QB||1 year, $1.9 million||Acquired via trade with Broncos|
|Tavarres King||WR||--||Did not make final roster|
|Brett Jones||C||1 year, $2.9 million||Acquired via trade with Giants|
|George Iloka||S||1 year, $800,000|
***WARNING!! Kirk Cousins rant incoming!***
The biggest signing for the Minnesota Vikings, and the NFL as a whole, was Kirk Cousins, who agreed to a fully-guaranteed 3-year, $84 million contract. The $28 million per year price tag was steep, and the signing wasn't without criticism.
Former Viking Case Keenum signed a two-year, $36 million contract with the Denver Broncos, and Teddy Bridgewater signed an incentive-laden deal with the New York Jets (1 year, $6 million). Had Minnesota re-signed both Bridgewater and Keenum, some argued, they still would've resulted in a lower cap hit than Kirk Cousins. At first, I was one of said critics, but then I realized what the Vikings were looking for. Basically, Minnesota needed a quarterback that fit two key criteria:
- Consistent passer with low interception percentage
- Marginal injury history
At the end of the day, none of Minnesota's three quarterbacks fit those two requirements. Sam Bradford has missed nearly 50 games in his career due to injury. Teddy Bridgewater's health was a question mark as well, coming off of a devastating knee injury that nearly ended his career. And then there's Case Keenum, who arguably had the best case to be re-signed. Despite his heroics during the 2017 season, Keenum has consistently been a bottom-20 quarterback for the majority of his career. His 3:2 touchdown to interception ratio is uninspiring and he never fully ascended from his reputation as a stop-gap quarterback.
Kirk Cousins, on the contrary, does satisfy these two points. Cousins hasn't missed a game since the 2014 season and has an interception percentage of around 2% in that span, which is below the league average. So, while Kirk Cousins does have his flaws, and the contract isn't exactly ideal, signing him to a record-breaking deal was likely the best option available to the Minnesota Vikings at the time.
Unfortunately, opinions on Kirk Cousins remained unchanged after a mixed bag of games throughout 2018. Statistically, it was one of his best years, totaling over 4,200 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and only ten interceptions. He also posted the lowest interception percentage of his career, at 1.7%. The problem, however, lies in his ability to win games.
Throughout his tenure with the Washington Redskins, Kirk Cousins was stigmatized as a quarterback who couldn't win big games: he has a losing record against winning teams and an 0-2 record in the playoffs. Last season did nothing to help that. The Vikings played seven games against future playoff teams last season. Their record? A paltry 1-6, with their lone win coming from the Philadelphia Eagles. Championship-caliber teams don't go 1-6 against higher levels of competition. Although not all of the losses are Kirk's fault, he needs to be able to elevate his play in big moments to earn his $28 million per year contract.
The Vikings also made a big splash on the defensive side of the ball by signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year wasn't the game-wrecker teams thought he would be in 2013, but still managed to be a powerful inside pass rusher in Seattle. It should also be noted that it was also his first season in a new 4-3 scheme, which the Vikings also run. With a newly-found need at DT2, Richardson seemed like the perfect addition to an already strong defensive front.
Sheldon Richardson had a good season, with 16 quarterback hits and 4.5 sacks. However, it's uncertain if he will be back with the Vikings again in 2019, due to his relatively high price tag and the team's limited cap space.
The Vikings also swung a couple of trades last offseason. They struck a deal for former Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian in exchange for a 2019 5^(th) round pick, and sent their 2019 7^(th) round pick to the New York Giants in exchange for center Brett Jones. Both trades were simply to add depth at positions of need, and Jones was the only one to see significant playing time last season (three starts).
2018 Draft Picks
|2||30 (62)||Brian O'Neill||T||Pittsburgh|
|4||2 (102)||Jalyn Holmes||DE||Ohio State|
|5||20 (157)||Tyler Conklin||TE||Central Michigan|
|5||30 (167)||Daniel Carlson||K||Auburn|
|6||39 (213)||Colby Gossett||G||Appalachian State|
|6||44 (218)||Ade Aruna||DE||Tulane|
|7||7 (225)||Devante Downs||LB||California|
Round 1, Pick 30: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
This pick was scrutinized at first by many, not because of Hughes as a player, but rather because of their lack of need at the position. The Vikings spent a first-round pick on a position group already filled with early picks: Xavier Rhodes (1), Trae Waynes (1), and Mackensie Alexander (2). Meanwhile, their offensive line, long abused by the front office, continued to be barren of talent.
At UCF, Hughes played like a big corner trapped in a small corner's body. His speed, ball skills, and man coverage abilities made him a perfect fit for Mike Zimmer's scheme. He is also a talented kick and punt returner, to boot. After impressing during minicamps and preseason play, Hughes made the most of his few opportunities during the 2018 season. In six games, Hughes had three passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one pick-six. Although a season-ending knee injury cut his rookie campaign short, the future is bright for the former Knight.
Round 2, Pick 30 (62 Overall): Brian O'Neill, Tackle, Pittsburgh.
Despite not selecting an offensive lineman in the first round, Brian O'Neill ended up being a very solid pick in the back-end of the second. At first, it was believed that O'Neill would be a developmental prospect. Coming out of Pitt, he was undersized, lean, and not strong enough to handle NFL defensive ends. The 2018 season was intended to be a redshirt year for O'Neill, but by week six he was established as the Vikings' starting right tackle.
The former Pitt Panther was a pleasant surprise throughout the back half of the season, allowing zero sacks and only one QB hurry, according to Pro Football Focus. Despite it being his first year, O'Neill was arguably the best player across the Vikings' entire O-line. After a solid rookie season, he and second-year center Pat Elflein will provide a young core for an offensive line in desperate need of a reshuffle.
Round 4, Pick 2 (102 Overall): Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State
Like many defensive players from Ohio State, defensive end Jalyn Holmes was a fundamentally sound prospect that seemed ready for NFL play. The issue with Holmes, according to several scouting reports, was that he was a "player without a position". He's not strong enough to play defensive tackle, yet not fast enough to be a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Holmes ended up being listed as a backup defensive end, and spent most of his time behind teammates Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. In five games, he tallied three solo tackles and one sack. He should see more playing time next season as both a defensive tackle and defensive end.
Round 5, Pick 20 (157 Overall): Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan
Early in his collegiate career, Conklin appeared to be on the path to stardom in the NFL, but a foot injury severely hampered his explosiveness afterwards. In his senior year at Central Michigan, he wasn't quite the same player, lacking some of the speed and separation that had once made him a special prospect.
Nevertheless, the Vikings decided to take a flier on Conklin, in hopes he'd return to his pre-injury form. He was active for all 16 games this season, starting three in place of injured veteran David Morgan. He closed out his rookie year with five catches for 77 yards.
Round 5, Pick 30 (167 Overall): Daniel Carlson, Kicker, Auburn
At Auburn, Daniel Carlson showed off his massive leg and quickly became the SEC's all-time leading scorer. After being drafted in the fifth round by the Vikings, he easily supplanted Kai Forbath for the starting kicker spot, and looked forward to a long, productive career in Minnesota.
He lasted two games.
After a terrible miss in overtime against the Green Bay Packers, Carlson was cut by the Vikings. Luckily for him, he was able to land back on his feet, signing with the Oakland Raiders a few weeks later. In his time with the Vikings, Carlson went 1/4 (25%) on field goal attempts. In Oakland, he was 17/18 (94%). I hate my team.
Round 6, Pick 39 (213 Overall): Colby Gossett, Guard, App. State
Gossett was the classic case of a big guy with an even bigger need to fix his fundamentals. In college and during Senior Bowl workouts, Gossett really struggled with his technique and maintaining blocks. Although his size (six-foot-five, 311 pounds) and strength are an advantage, it was evident he wasn't quite ready to play on an NFL roster.
The Vikings placed Gossett on their practice squad and he remained there until October, when he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals. He started a handful of games in Arizona in place of injured guard Mike Iupati, and filled in admirably when needed.
Round 6, Pick 44 (218 Overall): Ade Aruna, DE, Tulane
Another developmental prospect, Tulane's Ade Aruna has the size and athleticism to make any defensive coordinator drool over. He tested extremely well at the NFL Combine, posting position-leading scores in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump. Aruna still has much to learn about pass-rushing techniques and needs to improve his strength. In many ways, Aruna can be viewed as a more raw version of Danielle Hunter.
Unfortunately, he didn't have much time to develop. In an August 18^(th) preseason game against Jacksonville, Aruna tore his ACL, sending him straight to Injured Reserve. Only time will tell how his explosiveness will be impacted by the injury, and hopefully he will be able to pick up from where he left off.
Round 7, Pick 7 (225 Overall): Devante Downs, LB, California
At Cal, Downs missed all but two games of his senior season due to a severe "lower body injury". Given the concern regarding his injury, there was no guarantee that Downs would even play this season for the Vikings. Luckily, he was able to get healthy, and finished the season with three combined tackles. He will likely remain on the roster bubble as a backup linebacker.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents
Holton Hill, CB, Texas:
Initially, Holton Hill was graded as a Day 3 prospect, but off-the-field issues caused him to slide off of many teams' draft boards. While he's playing, there's no denying Hill's talent. He's a tall, strong corner that's smart enough to excel in either man or zone coverage. After the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Vikings made signing Hill a priority, and he agreed to a three-year deal shortly after.
Despite being deep in the depth chart, Hill saw plenty of playing time this season due to injury. He still has a ways to go in his coverage abilities, but he still proved he can be relied upon when needed. Hill finished the season with one interception and two passes defensed.
Chad Beebe (Northern Illinois) and Brandon Zylstra (Concordia), WR:
The depth signings of Zylstra and Beebe are often intertwined, but it should be noted that the two are very different players. Zylstra is six-foot-two, 215 pounds, towering over Beebe (five-foot-nine, 183 pounds). Beebe is a stereotypical "shifty slot receiver", while Zylstra is far more of a big-bodied target. In terms of their similarities, they both had productive college careers, but were overlooked due to playing for lower-level programs.
Neither Zylstra or Beebe had a breakout year in 2018. The backup receivers combined for five catches for 62 yards on the year. With a receiving corps lacking depth, The Vikings will have to continue looking for a solid third target if neither Beebe or Zylstra develop more.
Mike Boone, RB, Cincinnati:
After beating out fellow UDFA running back Roc Thomas for the third RB spot, Mike Boone played fairly well when called upon. In the eight games he was active, Boone rushed 11 times for 47 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Boone truly showed off his potential in a 100-yard, one touchdown effort in the Vikings' preseason game against Jacksonville. Barring injury, he will likely continue to see limited touches, but does provide a solid backup option going forward. (Note: Roc Thomas was placed on the practice squad and later signed to the 53-man roster)
Weekly Game Recaps
2018 Week 1 | San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
San Francisco 49ers
The Vikings played their season opener at home against the San Francisco 49ers. Coming off of an NFC Championship Game and boasting the league's best defense, the odds were in the Vikings' favor from the start, no matter how hot the opposing quarterback is.
The first half was fairly uneventful with the Vikings holding a 10-3 lead. The game's lone touchdown was a 22-yard strike from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs in the early part of the second quarter. Minnesota began putting the game away in the third quarter. A Mike Hughes pick-six gave the Vikes a 14-point lead, and they didn't look back. The 49ers kicked another field goal, to which the Vikings' responded with a quick touchdown drive led by Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen.
With 30 seconds left in the third quarter, Minnesota surrendered their first touchdown of the game, cutting the lead to 11. From that point, San Francisco was largely shut down on offense. In their four final drives, they resulted in an interception, field goal, punt, and another interception. The final score was 24-16, Vikings.
The season opener was an expected yet satisfying win for the team. Kirk Cousins threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Adam Thielen had his first of eight straight 100-yard games. Danielle Hunter started a streak of his own, recording a sack for the first of seven straight games. The Vikings dominated an up-and-coming team and looked like playoff contenders. Life was good.
Players of the Game:
- Adam Thielen- 6 receptions, 102 yards
- Mike Hughes- 3 tackles, 3 passes defensed, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
- Simple fade to Diggs for a 22-yard score
- Alfred Morris fumbles on the 1-yard line
- Mike Hughes hauls in a big pick-six
- Harrison Smith picks off Garoppolo to seal the victory
2018 Week 2 | Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
For the first three quarters of their game in Lambeau, the Vikings' offense was practically nonexistent. Aside from a Laquon Treadwell touchdown, they punted three times (with one of them being blocked) and missed a field goal. It seemed that the Packers, in possession of a 13-point lead, would have an easy home win.
Then the fourth quarter happened. The Vikings came roaring back and started a back-and-forth contest between the two teams. After a Stefon Diggs touchdown and a subsequent Mason Crosby field goal, the Vikings were down by nine and needed a big play.
And a big play they got. With seven minutes remaining, Kirk Cousins delivered a bomb to Stefon Diggs, resulting in a 75-yard touchdown. After another pair of Crosby field goals, the score was Packers 29, Vikings 21. Needing a quick score, Cousins began airing it out, only to be intercepted by Jaire Alexander. However, Clay Matthews was called for a controversial roughing the passer penalty, and the takeaway was negated. The Vikings took full advantage of the penalty. Kirk Cousins completed a series of short passes to put them into scoring position, finishing the drive off with an Adam Thielen touchdown. A two-point conversion tied the game at 29 apiece.
Not to be deterred, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers made quick work of the situation, setting up Mason Crosby for a game-winning 52-yard field goal. Crosby was having a great game, with five field goals already under his belt. But on the sixth kick, his luck run out. The kick was wide left and the game was going to overtime.
After receiving the kickoff, the Vikings once again drove down into Packer territory. The offense stalled, so they elected to send out rookie Daniel Carlson to kick a field goal. He missed, but there was still a chance of the Vikings getting the ball back. The Packers' offense also failed at converting, so they punted the ball away. For Carlson, it was no harm, no foul. He had another chance, this time for the win, to redeem himself. Then, this happened. Daniel Carlson missed his third kick of the day, and the Vikings had to settle for the tie, 29-29.
Players of the Game:
- Kirk Cousins- 35/48, 425 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception
- Stefon Diggs- 9 receptions, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Packers' special teams blocks punt and scores
- Cousins and Diggs connect for a 75-yard score
- Clay Matthews penalty saves Vikings comeback
- Thielen and Diggs' heroics tie the game at 29
- Daniel Carlson misses third field goal of the day, forcing the tie
2018 Week 3 | Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings
Alright, let's get this over with...
Simply put, the Minnesota Vikings didn't show up for their game against the Buffalo Bills. Kirk Cousins fumbled in each of his first two drives. The defense and running game was practically nonexistent. By the end of the first quarter, the game already seemed out of hand, with the Bills up 17-0. Buffalo added another ten in the second quarter, soundly putting away any hope of a Vikings comeback.
The Vikings threw the ball 55 times against the Bills, compared to six rushing attempts. Six. Kirk Cousins, who was having a great year to that point, had too much put on his shoulders and it resulted in three turnovers. The high point, if you could call it that, was a 92-yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes of the game. The score was next to meaningless and only salvaged a shred of respect by avoiding a complete shutout.
Coming into 2018, the Vikings were supposed to be a front-runner to make the Super Bowl. Super Bowl caliber teams don't get blown out at home, and they definitely don't get blown out by teams in the middle of a rebuild. Call it a "trap game", but the Vikings straight-up sucked against Buffalo, setting the tone for a tumultuous season in Minneapolis.
Players of the Game:
- Josh Allen*- 15/22, 196 yards, 3 touchdowns (1 passing, 2 rushing)
- Adam Thielen- 14 receptions, 105 yards
- Kirk Cousins fumbles for second time in the game
- Josh Allen finds wide-open receiver for a touchdown
- Josh Allen hurdles over Anthony Barr
2018 Week 4 | Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
The matchup between the L.A Rams and Minnesota Vikings was one of the most entertaining Thursday night games of the season. The shootout supplied over 1,000 total yards and 69 combined points. The offensive explosion began with a leaping touchdown grab by Vikings' backup receiver Aldrick Robinson. The score was quickly returned by the Rams on a short touchdown pass to Todd Gurley.
Most of the damage was done during the second quarter, where a whopping 34 points were scored. Down by three following a Dan Bailey field goal, Jared Goff found Cooper Kupp for a 70-yard score, giving them their first lead of the game. After another great touchdown by Aldrick Robinson, the Rams began to pull away, scoring on two straight possessions. With less than two minutes on the clock and down by 11, the Vikings decided to stay aggressive and push for a last-second score before halftime. Kirk Cousins led the team deep into Rams territory to set up a Dan Bailey field goal.
The fireworks displayed in the second quarter dimmed slightly heading into the third, with the biggest play coming from Adam Thielen. With time running out in the third quarter, Cousins hit Thielen for a massive 45-yard touchdown strike, cutting the Rams' lead to three. The Vikings' defense didn't return the favor, however, and gave up a score of their own.
After another Dan Bailey field goal, the Vikings had one more last-ditch effort to force overtime. Like he did against Green Bay, Kirk Cousins began to lead his team down the field, envisioning a game-tying score. But then, also like he has before, Kirk Cousins fumbled the game away, securing a Rams victory.
All in all, it was a valiant effort against one of the league's best teams. Despite the heartbreak at the end of the game, the Vikings were still confident in their ability to reach the playoffs, despite having a 1-2-1 record. Their next test would be a road matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the very team that ruined the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes the year prior.
Players of the Game:
- Kirk Cousins: 36/50, 422 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 fumble
- Adam Thielen: 8 receptions, 135 yards, 1 touchdown
- Aldrick Robinson makes leaping touchdown grab
- Goff picks on Anthony Barr in coverage for a huge touchdown
- Adam Thielen cuts the lead down to three
- Anthony Barr gives up another touchdown in coverage
- Kirk Cousins get stripped, seals Rams win
2018 Week 5 | Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
The Vikings' Week 5 trip was largely seen as a revenge game. The previous season, Philly slaughtered Minnesota, 38-7, en route to the team's first Super Bowl victory. Now, the Vikings were returning to Lincoln Financial Field in hopes to avenge their devastating loss last January.
The game didn't get to a very fast start, with the score locked 3-3 deep into the second quarter. Then, with the Eagles driving deep into Vikings territory, it seemed like they would be taking their first lead of the day. Those hopes were dashed when nose tackle Linval Joseph returned a fumble for a staggering 64 yard score. The Vikings expanded their lead shortly after with another touchdown drive to close out the first half.
The Vikings maintained control of the game for most of the remainder of the game, with the only excitement coming from a last-second touchdown connection between Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz to narrow the score to two. New kicker Dan Bailey was instrumental in putting the game out of reach, converting on 3 of his 5 kicks, including a 52-yarder with less than three minutes remaining.
Players of the Game:
- Adam Thielen- 7 receptions, 116 yards, 1 touchdown
- Linval Joseph- 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown
- Linval Joseph 64-yard rumble
- Cousins completes touchdown throw off of back foot
- Dan Bailey overcomes rough start to put game out of reach
- Zach Ertz cuts into lead with back-corner TD grab
2018 Week 6 | Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
Despite going through a very difficult season, the Arizona Cardinals held their own during the first half of their game in Minnesota. On the Vikings' end, the home matchup was somewhat of a mixed bag. Running back Latavius Murray scored the first touchdown of the day on a 21- yard scramble. The two teams then traded field goals to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead.
Kirk Cousin's struggles with holding onto the football continued in this game, fumbling for the fourth game in a row. The ball was scooped up by Cardinals safety Budda Baker, who returned it for an Arizona touchdown. Another Dan Bailey field goal gave the lead back to Minnesota, 13-10.
During the third quarter, the Vikings went back to their roots of playing complimentary football with an outstanding defense. Latavius Murray and rookie Mike Boone pounded their way into Arizona's redzone, with the drive being capped off with a 13-yard touchdown catch by Adam Thielen. The following drive, the Cardinals went three-and-out and were forced to punt. Longtime punt returner Marcus Sherels set the offense up in fantastic position, finally being stopped at the Cardinals' 43.
The following three-play drive were three straight runs, with the final being a 7-yard scramble by Kirk Cousins. The score essentially put the game on ice, and the Vikings' defense and running game squandered any potential fourth-quarter comeback. This was the first game of the season where Minnesota was able to establish an effective running game, with the team rushing for 195 yards, a season high.
Players of the Game:
- Latavius Murray- 155 rushing yards (6.5 YPC), 1 touchdown
- Danielle Hunter- 5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss
- Murray delivers the Vikings' first rushing touchdown of 2018
- Budda Baker 44-yard fumble recovery touchdown
- Cousins scores, delivers oddest touchdown dance of the year
2018 Week 7 | Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets
New York Jets
Similar to last week's game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings' trip to East Rutherford was capitalized by a low-scoring first half, resurgent running game, and a dominant defense. However, a key difference in this matchup is the elimination of mistakes by Kirk Cousins, and it paid off big time.
With a 10-7 lead coming out of the half, the Minnesota Vikings opened the floodgates, allowing Latavius Murray to run for a respectable 4.6 yards per carry and two touchdowns. Kirk Cousins played a very clean game, with 240 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers. The defense was also back to its' 2017 form, with three sacks and a season-high four takeaways. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold struggled early and often, supplying the Vikings with all four of said takeaways (three interceptions, one fumble).
Following their big win against New York, it seemed like the Vikings were on the right path. They were 4-2-1 and (besides the Buffalo game) looked like a very competitive team that was to be reckoned with.
Players of the Game:
- Adam Thielen- 9 receptions, 110 yards, 1 touchdown
- Latavius Murray- 69 rushing yards (4.6 YPC), 2 touchdowns
- Adam Thielen lays out for nice touchdown grab
- Harrison Smith picks off tipped pass for 52 yards
- Murray ices the game with a long touchdown run
2018 Week 8 | New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints
After getting revenge on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, the Vikings now had to be on the other side of the situation: protecting their home field against a motivated Saints team. The game got off to a great start, with both sides exchanging short touchdown passes.
The two teams seemed perfectly matched heading into halftime, but one key play swung all the momentum in New Orleans' favor. with a three point lead, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings were driving deep into Saints territory. Suddenly, Adam Thielen fumbled a short pass at the 10-yard line. The loose ball was picked up by cornerback Marshon Lattimore and returned 53 yards into Vikings territory. If that weren't enough, a personal foul on Laquon Treadwell strained the Vikings' defense even further, with Drew Brees and company getting the ball at the 18 yard line. They scored two plays later on an Alvin Kamara run.
The Vikings' offense was nearly non-existent in the third quarter. The Saints took full advantage of their newly-found momentum, scoring 13 straight points after the start of the second half. The low point came when Cousins, attempting to bail his team out, threw a costly pick-six to Saints corner P.J Williams. Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins managed to connect for one final score, but at that point it was too little, too late.
It was a pretty disappointing showing by the Vikings, who allowed the Saints to beat them at their own game. Drew Brees for only 120 yards while the team ran for 105. The Saints also relied on time of possession late in the game, helping to secure a road victory. It was another example of a very talented Vikings squad not being able to pull off a win against high-caliber teams.
Players of the Game:
- Stefon Diggs- 10 receptions, 119 yards, 1 touchdown
- Adam Thielen- 7 receptions, 103 yards, 1 touchdown
- Adam Thielen reaches over a Saints defender for insane first-down catch
- Stefon Diggs' perfectly executed comeback route
- Marshon Lattimore recovers fumble 53 yards
- P.J Williams ices the game with a pick-six
2018 Week 9 | Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Coming off of a disappointing home loss against the Saints, the Vikings responded by doing the exact opposite of what they did last week against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings didn't have a single sack against the Saints. The next week? They notched 10, a franchise record. Against the Saints, the Vikings ran for 85 yards. Against the Lions? 128, one of their best totals of the year.
Like they have against other non-playoff teams this season, the Vikings looked like a dominant, defensive-minded team ready to make a Super Bowl run. A pair of Matt Prater field goals kept the game close in the first half, but Detroit's offense was anemic at best throughout the game.
Coming out of halftime, the Lions still had a very real shot at coming back. They were only down by nine and just needed to show some signs of life. However, their first three of their possessions in the second half were punt, punt, and punt. On their fourth try, the Lions sealed their own fate, fumbling in their own territory. The ball was recovered by Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, who ran it back 32 yards for the touchdown. Even in garbage time, Detroit was only able to muster one last field goal, setting the final score at 24-9.
The game was a great rebound not only for the Vikings, but second-year running back Dalvin Cook as well. Cook saw limited playing time throughout the majority of the season, but finally looked like he was back at full strength. He ran 10 times for 89 yards.
Players of the Game:
- Danielle Hunter- 9 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown
- Tom Johnson- 5 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss
- Darius Slay cuts off Adam Thielen's route for an interception
- Dalvin Cook pops off a 70-yard run
- Danielle Hunter returns Stafford fumble for six
- All ten of Minnesota's sacks against Detroit
2018 Week 11 | Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Another game against a playoff team, another game in which the offense fell flat. The Vikings' first five possessions were as follows: punt, fumble, punt, interception, punt. During those five possessions, the Vikings went three-and-out three times. Basically, if Minnesota's offense found itself gaining too many yards, they would find a way to give the ball back to Chicago.
While the problems were aplenty on the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings' defense did an admirable job of keeping the game fairly close. They held two of Chicago's longest first-half drives to field goals, and managed to snag an interception early in the second quarter. By halftime, the score was 14-0, with Chicago holding the lead.
Heading into the third quarter, Minnesota's defense once again found itself leading the team from despair. Safety Anthony Harris, who was filling in for injured starter Andrew Sendejo, intercepted his second pass of the day. Fellow safety Harrison Smith also nabbed a takeaway in the form of a fumble. Both takeaways put the Vikings in an excellent position, but the offense was only able to muster two measly field goals. Nevertheless, it was still a one score game, at 14-6.
With yet another chance to make the game close, the Vikings offense shot itself in the foot for one final time. Kirk Cousins threw a pick-six to All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, putting the game out of reach. Now soundly in garbage time, Cousins salvaged his stat line with two touchdown passes to Aldrick Robinson and Stefon Diggs, respectively. Prior to the two touchdown drives, Kirk Cousins threw for 129 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, including his game-sealing pick-six. It was by far his worst performance of the year to that point.
Players of the Game:
- Stefon Diggs- 13 receptions, 126 yards, 1 touchdown
- Anthony Harris- 4 tackles, 3 passes defensed, 2 interceptions
- Anthony Harris fights for football, comes away with interception
- Anthony Miller makes falling touchdown catch
- Vikings squander redzone trip, takes a sack on third down
- Eddie Jackson returns overthrown pass for a touchdown
2018 Week 12 | Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers
The Vikings' rematch against Green Bay wasn't nearly as exciting as Week 2's overtime kicking fiasco, but was an evenly matched game between two teams trying to stay alive in the playoff hunt. After three straight drives without a single first down, it appeared that the game would be decided by whoever scored first. Then, after a long touchdown drive led by Aaron Rodgers, both teams began matching each other's blows.
Still very early in the game (but now down by seven), Kirk Cousins led the Vikings down the field quickly, gaining 75 yards in six plays. The drive was capped by a 26-yard touchdown catch and run by Dalvin Cook. Not to be outdone, the Packers held a 75-yard drive of their own to regain the lead off of an Aaron Jones touchdown catch. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, now in full stride, returned the favor once again, tying the game at 14 all.
While Green Bay's offense stalled, the Vikings continue to gain plenty of yards against a porous defense. The following two drives were negated, however, by more kicking woes. Much like their first game against the Packers, Minnesota's kicker came up short, missing 48 and 56 yard field goals.
Similar to their other games this season, the Vikings played their best football in the third quarter. Minnesota's defense held firm in their first few drives of the second half, setting up the offense in fantastic field position. A Bailey field goal and short touchdown grab by Adam Thielen put control of the game into the Vikings' hands.
Now well into the fourth quarter, the Vikings attempted to put the game away by driving deep into Packer territory. They were positioned on the Packers' seven yard line when they were put into a fourth-and-two situation. Staying aggressive, Mike Zimmer elected to go for the conversion, only to fail due to an incomplete pass. The defensive stand put new life into the Packers, and they marched down the field and reduced their deficit by three. With only two minutes remaining, an onside kick was their only hope to snatch a win from their purple foes. The kick was trapped within the arms of Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, and the game was essentially over.
Players of the Game:
- Kirk Cousins- 29/38, 342 yards, 3 touchdowns
- Sheldon Richardson- 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss
- Rodgers and Adams connect for game's first touchdown
- Dalvin Cook touchdown catch (with limbo!!)
- Richardson gets to Aaron Rodgers for second time
2018 Week 13 | Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots
New England Patriots
The Vikings struggled once again to perform against upper-echelon teams in their loss in New England. Their first half performance was very much a microcosm of their entire season to that point. The Vikings were unable to gain much yardage for the majority of the first half, and when they did, they ruined the drive with a missed kick. Down by ten, their first half was salvaged by Adam Thielen, who caught a touchdown seconds before halftime. A disappointing performance so far, but it was enough to keep the game competitive.
After trading punts and a rare Stephen Gostkowski miss, the Vikings were in a perfect spot to make a comeback. A 12-play drive led to a Bailey field goal, tying the game at ten. But, two straight touchdown drives by Tom Brady and the Patriots put the Vikes in a precarious position.
Down by 14 with limited time, the Vikings gave fans an all-too-familiar sight: they choked. Their offense, which had shown signs of life, couldn't get out of its' own way. In their final three drives, Kirk Cousins' squad produced a failed fourth-down conversion and two interceptions to ice the game.
While much of the blame for the Vikings' offensive woes fall on Cousins, it should be noted that the play-calling, largely John DeFilippo's, came under heavy fire in the loss. For yet another time this season, too much pressure was put on Cousins throughout the game. Despite having two talented running backs, the Vikings only ran the ball 13 times against New England, as opposed to 44 passing attempts. It was at this point that DeFilippo was aware he was on very thin ice.
Players of the Game:
- Eric Kendricks- 16 tackles, 1 interception
- James White*- 26 rushing yards, 7 receptions, 92 receiving yards (118 total)
- Thielen runs right by the McCourty twins for a TD
- Brady hits a wide-open Josh Gordon to take the lead
- Eric Kendricks snags an interception, giving the Vikings one final hope
- Duron Harmon makes juggling interception in the endzone
2018 Week 14 | Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
If the Vikings wanted to ensure that they would be playing in January, this was an opportunity they couldn't afford to lose. Beating Seattle, the current No. 5 seed in the NFC, would've nearly guaranteed a playoff berth for the Minnesota Vikings. However, in a defensive slugfest that was within one score for 57 minutes, the Vikings couldn't get it done.
In a first half filled with punts, it seemed like Seattle would keep their 3-0 lead heading into halftime. That was changed, however, when the Seahawks' offense suddenly started clicking at the end of the second quarter. With a handful of ticks left on the clock, Russell Wilson had his team in the redzone, ready to strike. Wilson's pass landed right in the hands of Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, keeping the deficit to only three points.
After a third quarter filled with even more punts and another Janikowski field goal, the Vikings were down six with nine minutes left in the game. Then, miraculously, the Vikings finally did something. Kirk Cousins led the team 74 yards in just eight plays, all the way to Seattle's one-yard line. Then, on fourth-and-goal, only trailing by six, the Vikings elected to go for the touchdown instead of settling for three. They failed, turning over on downs. A crushing blow, but they still had a chance.
After a Seattle three-and-out, the Vikings drove the ball down the field once again. This time around, Minnesota elected to attempt a field goal. The kick was blocked by Bobby Wagner, leaving the Vikings with still zero points. The blocked kick took all momentum away from Minnesota, and the team gave up two straight scores within the following minute.
For as bad as an offensive production there was in New England, the showing in Seattle was far worse. The Vikings were given a handful of opportunities to at least tie the game, yet they consistently were rendered incapable. At this point, the front office had enough, and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired the next day.
Players of the Game:
- Dalvin Cook- 55 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 28 receiving yards (83 total), 1 receiving touchdown
- Holton Hill- 8 tackles, 3 passes defensed
- Rashaad Penny's crazy end-around run
- Wilson makes critical error, throws pick to Eric Kendricks
- Bobby Wagner ILLEGALLY blocks kick, referees drop penalty
- Justin Coleman returns fumble for cherry on top
2018 Week 15 | Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings
Say what you will about Miami's weaknesses on defense, but the Vikings' 41-17 thrashing of the 'Fins is what fans expected when the team added Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook to their roster. The Vikings were dominant in all three facets of the game, minus a handful of big plays given up. It was easily their best performance since their game against Detroit in Week 9.
The game started off with a bang, thanks to a long touchdown drive led by Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs. The following two drives were both ended by impressive touchdown runs, one by Cook and another by Latavius Murray. Meanwhile, Minnesota's defense forced three straight punts, leading to a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Cousins threw another touchdown, but this time to the wrong team. The Dolphins followed the pick-six with a field goal, giving them some respectability going into halftime.
The first play of the second half provided the biggest scare for the Vikings faithful when Kalen Ballage ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run, reducing the lead to four. Minnesota responded 20 unanswered points, soundly putting away the game.
The gameplan against Miami was totally different than it was two weeks prior against the Patriots. Kirk Cousins only dropped back 21 times and their leading receiver caught two balls. It was also the first "full" game from second-year stud Dalvin Cook, who rushed for a career-high 136 yards. The Vikings' offense seemed rejuvenated by new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and there was a glimmer of hope for a playoff run after all.
Players of the Game:
- Dalvin Cook- 136 yards (7.2 YPC), 2 touchdowns
- Anthony Barr- 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss
- Dalvin Cook turns the corner for a touchdown run
- Minkah Fitzpatrick with an easy pick-six
- Kalen Ballage turns on the jets for a long TD run
- Marcus Sherels' 70-yard punt return
- Cousins puts away the game with a 40-yard bomb
2018 Week 16 | Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
The divisional rematch between the Lions and Vikings got off to a very troubling start for Minnesota. All of their first four offensive possessions resulted in a three-and-out. Luckily, Detroit wasn't able to capitalize on the Vikings' misfortunes, unlike they have so many times before. A handful of Matt Prater touchdowns gave the Lions an early lead of 9-0. Then, Kirk Cousins began firing, and he never looked back. With 4:05 left in the second quarter, the Vikings ran a very balanced attack, utilizing both of their running backs and their onslaught of receiving weapons. The drive resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Stefon Diggs.
The following drive, Detroit attempted to put up quick points of their own but was unable. With possession of the ball again, Cousins decided to be aggressive, attempting to take the lead just before halftime. With a last-ditch effort for points, Cousins and tight end Kyle Rudolph connected for a 44-yard Hail Mary to give Minnesota a 14-9 lead.
The two touchdown drives gave the Vikings the push they needed, and they continued to put up points against the Lions' defense. Along with increasing their lead, they took valuable time off of the clock, as well: their first three drives of the second half took up over 13 minutes of game time. The defense suffocated the Lions, only allowing one drive to surpass 25 yards of offense.
After a pair of tough road losses, the two big wins against Miami and the rival Detroit Lions did wonders for the Vikings' confidence. They will be hoping to keep their momentum in a must-win game against the Chicago Bears.
Players of the Game:
- Kirk Cousins- 21/28, 253 yards, 3 touchdowns
- Kyle Rudolph- 9 receptions, 122 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Zach Zenner starts off the game with a nice 29-yard run
- Kyle Rudolph comes down with the Hail Mary as time expires
- All of Rudolph's catches in his 122-yard game
2018 Week 17 | Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Heading into Week 17, the NFC playoff picture was set, with one exception: the sixth and final seed. The Minnesota Vikings, at 8-6-1, were currently in control of the No. 6 seed, and needed one of two things to happen: They needed to either beat Chicago at home OR hope that the Washington Redskins defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. The only way for Minnesota to miss the playoffs was is if Philly won and Minnesota didn't. And it happened, because of course it did.
Much like their game at Soldier Field, the Vikings' first handful of drives were marred by repeated three-and-outs, putting their defense in terrible position. The Bears utilized Jordan Howard early and often and it paid off. Howard powered his way towards two early touchdowns, giving Chicago the advantage, 13-0. After five straight drives ending in a punt, the Vikings finally showed some signs of life late in the first half, with a Dan Bailey field goal.
The Vikings' first possession of the second half is when the game got interesting. On a long 92-yard drive powered by Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, the Vikings finally scored their first touchdown, bringing the lead down to three. Unfortunately, the Bears had a long drive of their own, taking nine minutes off of the clock and adding an additional eight points to their lead.
Now desperate, the Vikings abandoned the field position battle, choosing to go for it on fourth down on three straight drives. They whiffed on all three. The final score was 24-10, and they were kicked out of the playoffs. For a team that was in control of its own destiny for the majority of the season, the Minnesota Vikings allowed countless opportunities to slip from their grasp. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that sent Minnesota home last year in embarrassing fashion, would continue to the postseason after shutting out the Washington Redskins, 24-0.
Players of the Game:
- Stefon Diggs- 8 receptions, 47 yards, 1 touchdown
- Jordan Howard*- 109 rushing yards (5.2 YPC), 2 touchdowns
- Howard opens the game with a 42-yard run
- Taylor Gabriel makes a diving 40-yard catch
- Diggs makes 100th catch of the year on 2-yard touchdown grab
- Tarik Cohen puts the game away
Written by u/XstarshooterX
|Category||Stats||Difference from 2017||Rank in NFL|
|Total Passing Yards||4,036||+283||13th|
|Total Rushing Yards||1,493||-464||30th|
|Total First Downs||310||-24||22nd|
|Category||Stats||Difference from 2017||Rank in NFL|
|Total Yards Allowed||4,955||+540||4th|
|Passing Yards Allowed||3,140||+78||3rd|
|Rushing Yards Allowed||1,815||+478||15th|
|Avg Points Allowed/Drive||1.63||+0.28||3rd|
|First Downs Allowed||303||+43||7th|
Three Things to Know:
- Our rushing defense got WAY worse. So much worse that it can't all be explained just by us playing from behind more often.
- Notice our total points allowed was ninth. Our points/drive was 3rd. This shows how often the defense was on the field and put in bad situations by the offense.
- The one stat we improved on from 2017 was takeaways, and it was only by one.
Season Highs and Lows
- The loss of offensive line coach Tony Sparano deeply affected the Minnesota Vikings both on and off of the field. Last July, Sparano died suddenly in his Eden Prairie home due to an abrupt heart failure. The passing shocked the Minnesota Vikings and rest of the NFL. Sparano was loved by not only his offensive linemen, but every player on the team. His no-nonsense attitude made him popular with rookies and veterans alike, and he was sorely missed this season. It is hard to quantify how impactful the death of Tony Sparano was on the field, but it was clear that the offensive line lacked the direction they did the year prior. After years of being one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the 2017 Vikings seemed to be improving thanks to coach Sparano. Although his tenure in Minnesota was short, he will always be remembered fondly for contributing to the Vikings' magical 2017 season.
- Another off-the-field issue that weighed on the back of the team's mind was the departure of Everson Griffen halfway through the season. After missing Week 3's defeat to the Buffalo Bills, it was revealed that Griffen was currently seeking help over apparent mental health issues. Much of the situation was clouded by rumors, but there was no doubting that the veteran defensive end was missed. In total, Griffen missed six games, returning for the team's Week 8 matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
- Originally, this was going to be about the Vikings' Week 3 loss to the Bills, but I'd like to instead talk about all of Kirk Cousins' fumbles this year. Cousins fumbled ten times this season, usually at the worst possible time. In at least three games (Weeks 3, 4, and 14), Cousins' looseness with the football essentially iced the game. This isn't even including some of his disastrous pick-sixes, which in itself lost a handful of games. Kirk Cousins had a great year on paper, but in game-defining situations he always seemed to be the problem, not the solution.
- The Vikings' Week 5 win against the Eagles was great for the team's morale and provided us with the team's best play of the year. Linval Joseph's iconic touchdown return caused r/minnesotavikings to be flooded with shitposts like this, and the play was broadcasted on highlight reels across the league. The win also allowed the Vikings to get revenge on the defending Super Bowl champions who had spoiled their own postseason run many moons ago. In addition, it was their only win against a playoff team in 2018.
- The Minnesota Vikings' 2018 season can't be explained without mentioning Adam Thielen's insane stretch of games to start the season. In the first eight weeks of the season, Thielen tied the NFL record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games and set the record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games to begin a season. The insane run made him a front-runner for the "best receiver in the NFL" debate, with 74 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns. His production slowed down significantly in the second half of the year, but Thielen's dominance was something to behold up until Week 9.
Coaching Staff Review
Although he can be a bit of a jerk at times, there's no doubting that Mike Zimmer is an excellent head coach. Since joining the team in 2014, Minnesota's defense has been one of the best in the NFL. This trend continued this season, with the Vikings ranking in the top ten for both points and yards allowed. His coaching style is, in a word, traditional. Zimmer's bread and butter is a strong defense, dominant running game, and having a quarterback that makes little mistakes. We saw shades of that in 2018, but the offense needs to improve to allow more complimentary gameplay.
If there is anywhere where you can fault coach Zimmer, it is with his mismanagement of the offensive side of the ball. Since his tenure began, the Vikings have had seven quarterbacks start under center. Most of the time, those seven quarterbacks have been given little to no protection behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. However, Zimmer seems to dodge most of this criticism by being labeled as a "defensive-minded" coach. While these issues certainly haven't been all his fault, there will be some concern with Zimmer if this continues.
All in all, Mike Zimmer is a good head coach that the Minnesota Vikings are lucky to have. In his five years with the team, the Vikings have won the division twice and have a win percentage of .594. He has also only had one losing season (7-9 in his first year) and led the team to their best record (13-3 in 2017) since the 1998 season. The Vikings understand how important coach Zimmer is to the team, which is why his contract was extended through the 2020 season.
After John DeFilippo was relieved of his duties during the season, assistant coach Kevin Stefanski stepped in as his short-term replacement. Stefanski's offense got off to a great start, with a 41-17 blowout over the Miami Dolphins. His next few games were somewhat of a mixed bag. A win over the inept Detroit Lions started off very slow on the offensive side of the ball, and the Vikings' season finale against Chicago seemed pretty similar to their first matchup.
One of the arguments that led toward DeFilippo's demise was the running game, or lack thereof. We would often see Kirk Cousins having to shoulder the load of an entire offense while the Vikings' two talented running backs sat idly by. This wasn't as much of the case with Stefanski, who did a much better job of keeping the offense balanced. The front office was impressed with his work, and Kevin Stefanski was later named as the team's full-time offensive coordinator.
In addition to the Stefanski promotion, the Vikings also brought in Gary Kubiak to their staff as an "offensive adviser". Kubiak has 24 years of coaching experience as a head coach and offensive coordinator. His most notable stops were with the Houston Texans (2006-2013) and the Denver Broncos (2015-2016), where he won Super Bowl 50.
Kubiak is known for embracing a strong running game, something that the Vikings were lacking for most of last season. He also brought along his son, Klint (quarterbacks coach), Rick Dennison (offensive line coach), and Brian Pariani (tight ends coach). The Kubiak/Stefanski marriage will be an interesting one to watch in the coming months, and hopefully it can lead to a more balanced attack.
As stated previously, one of the assistant coaches that moved from Denver with Gary Kubiak was offensive line coach Rick Dennison. The two have a long history thanks to their shared times in Denver. In fact, Dennison spent the vast majority of his professional career with the Broncos: as a player (1982-1990), an assistant coach (1995-2000), an offensive line coach (2001-2005), and an offensive coordinator (2006-2008, 2015-2016).
In the time that he wasn't coaching with the Broncos, he was coaching with another former Bronco: Gary Kubiak. Even through their times in Houston and Baltimore, the two coached stayed as a package deal. Since meeting in Kubiak's rookie season of 1983, the two have been very close as coworkers and friends. This made reuniting the two in Minnesota a no-brainer for both parties.
Dennison is taking over the position from interim coaches Clancy Barone and Andrew Jonocko, who filled in following the loss of Tony Sparano. Jonocko will return to his previous position of assistant offensive line coach, while Barone was relieved of his duties as tight ends coach.
Edwards, along with the entirety of the Vikings' defensive staff, has been with Mike Zimmer since the start of his tenure. Prior to landing in Minnesota, Edwards bounced around the league as an assistant coach and linebackers coach. One of the teams he coached was the Dallas Cowboys (1998-2001), where he met then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer and Edwards only coached together until the 2000 season, but the two had a strong connection and kept in touch. Then, when Mike Zimmer finally landed a head coaching job with the Vikings, he reached out to his old friend, who was currently a linebackers coach in Miami. The two have been together ever since and have transformed the Vikings' defense from below-average to one of the league's best.
Since 2011, Mike Priefer was the man in charge of the Minnesota Vikings' special teams. If his tenure could be remembered for one thing, it would be his work with young, talented returners like Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Marcus Sherels. However, this was quickly overshadowed by the Vikings' constant kicking woes. Between Blair Walsh, Kai Forbath, Daniel Carlson, and even Dan Bailey struggling, it seemed that the common factor was Priefer's coaching.
With rumblings of displeasure growing, it seemed that the Vikings' longtime special teams coordinator may be out of a job. At the end of the season, Mike Priefer's contract was not extended, and he was free to join the NFL coaching pool. He later landed with the Cleveland Browns at the same position.
Priefer's replacement was Marwan Maalouf, who was most recently a special teams assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins. In his six-year tenure with the Dolphins, Maalouf's special teams unit was consistently above average, hitting their peak last season. The Dolphins led the league in blocked punts (eight) and field goal percentage allowed (77.1%) during his tenure. With the consistent issues in the Vikings' kicking game, Maalouf will provide a much-needed fresh face.
Written by u/minnesotanationalist
All-Pros: DE Danielle Hunter (2nd-Team), S Harrison Smith (2nd-Team)
Pro Bowlers: WR Adam Thielen, DE Danielle Hunter, LB Anthony Barr, S Harrison Smith
- Wide Receiver- The duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs has become the best WR duo in the NFL. With both receivers putting up over 1000 yards for the first time, these two have become a dominant force. In-depth review
- Running Back- Although the Vikings didn’t produce a lot of running offense, the fault lies with the O-line. Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are both talented running backs who can make some impressive runs. In-depth review
- Defensive End- Danielle emerged as one the league’s elite pass rushers, Everson Griffen held down the right side when he started, and Stephen Weatherly is showing a lot of promise. In-depth review
- Safety- With one Pro Bowler in Harrison Smith and one emerging talent in Anthony Harris, the Vikings’ safety corps has the talent and versatility to consistently make plays. In-depth review
- Cornerback- After drafting another early round CB, the Vikings have an embarrassing wealth of talent in pass coverage. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are above-average starters, Mackensie Alexander had a fantastic breakout year, and Mike Hughes and Holton Hill are both promising rookies.In-depth review
- Offensive Line- This comes as no surprise. The Vikings' offensive line was terrible, especially compared to their improved 2017 campaign. Nearly every position along the line can use a significant upgrade, but the need at guard is most dire. In-depth review
In Depth: Defense
14.5 sacks, 72 comb. tackles, 1 FR TD
For the past couple years, Vikings fans have been saying that Hunter is an extremely talented player, but still needs to develop in order to reach his potential as an elite edge rusher. In 2018 this potential was finally met as Danielle Hunter became a force of nature on the defensive line, wreaking havoc in pass rushing and against the run.
With one of the most ridiculous physiques in the NFL, Hunter has a unique blend of size, strength, and speed that can destroy an offense in every facet of their game. Hunter recorded 8 sacks through the Vikings’ first 7 games, with at least one in each game, while also consistently chasing down running backs and wide receivers with insane speed for a defensive end.
Hunter had the peak of his season in Week 9, where he recorded 3.5 sacks against the Lions, and had a fumble recovery touchdown for good measure, winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He slowed down a bit in the second half of the season as teams began taking him more into account but he still finished strong enough to secure his first Pro Bowl berth and All-Pro mention.
With a newly-signed contract securing him on the Vikings until 2023, Danielle Hunter should remain one of the top edge rushers in the NFL, and at only 24 years old, he can only continue improving.
5.5 sacks, 33 comb. Tackles
After a dominant 2017 season in which he made 1st team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl and led the Vikings in sacks, Everson Griffen looked pretty tame in comparison this year. He played the latter half of the previous season with plantar fasciitis, and didn’t really seem to be over it by the beginning of this year, although he did record half a sack in each of the first two games.
Things quickly fell apart for Griffen after Week 2. He missed five weeks due to mental health issues and had subpar performance after he returned, only recording 4.5 sacks the rest of the season. Griffen also looked noticeably slower the second half of the season and seemed to lack the explosiveness that made him so deadly earlier in his career.
At 31 years old, Everson Griffen has been on the Vikings longer than anyone else and is one of the biggest leaders and veterans on the team, but with early signs of decline and injury concerns he may be relegated to lower on the depth chart. Then there’s also the fact that he’s making over $11 million next year, making him a prime target for a restructure or even a trade in order to help fix the Viking’s desperate cap situation.
3 sacks, 35 comb. tackles, 1 FF
A seventh-round pick in 2016, Stephen Weatherly almost exclusively played on special teams or as a backup in garbage time until 2018. He then made his way to second on the depth chart this year behind Griffen, and got his chance to start while Griffen was out earlier in the season.
Weatherly was a solid contributor and playmaker when he played, picking up the slack of a missing starter without a hitch. Most notably, he forced a fumble on Carson Wentz in Week 5 that allowed Linval Joseph to return the best big man touchdown of the year. Weatherly is a big, physical edge rusher who also has the speed to run down receivers and running backs.
With the way he has been improving every year, Stephen Weatherly could very well be starting alongside Danielle Hunter next year and be a very solid edge rusher for a long time.
6 comb. Tackles
Tashawn Bower was an UDFA from 2017 who has only seen playtime on special teams or as a depth edge rusher. Bower only played sparingly as a rotational player in a couple games and didn’t have many big plays, although hopefully he continues developing and working toward being a starter or more heavily-played rotational player.
1 sack, 58 comb. tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 FR TD
Another longtime veteran on the Viking’s D-line, Linval Joseph has been a run stopping anchor at nose tackle for years and has established himself as a leader and proven veteran on the team. After a sensational 2017, Joseph had high expectations and failed to meet them again despite still putting up a solid season.
Although he didn’t get as much attention and name recognition as last year he was still a very reliable run stuffer and in general an absolute unit in the front lines. His most notable moment this season was against the Eagles in Week 5, where caught a forced fumble by Weatherly and somehow outran the entire Eagles’ offense, reaching 18 MPH and returning it 64 yards for a touchdown, giving us revenge for the NFC championship and giving us a year’s supply of meme material.
At 30 years old and 330 pounds, Linval Joseph is still as strong and freakishly athletic as ever, and should still be a reliable run stopper and O-line nightmare for the near future.
4.5 sacks, 49 comb. tackles
One of our big free agent signings from the previous offseason, the former Seahawk Sheldon Richardson was signed by the Vikings for a one-year prove-it deal. Richardson started off strong this season, giving the team a needed boost to the three-tech position and being a reliable run stopper and pass rusher alongside the rest of the stout D-line of the Vikings.
While he didn’t have the most dominant season or record a lot of highlights, he was still a good player who made solid contributions throughout the season. Although the Vikings’ cap space is pretty low, hopefully Sheldon Richardson can return and continue giving the team a needed boost along the interior.
4.5 sacks, 23 comb. tackles, 2 FR
The oldest player on the Vikings, Tom Johnson, aka Sebastian Thunderbucket played for two other NFL teams before joining the Vikings for three years, signing with the Seahawks, and then coming back to the Vikings after Week 2. Johnson served as a valuable rotation player who can be a solid contributor, although with less of the flash of the starters.
Johnson was signed to a one-year deal at the beginning of the season and there hasn’t been much talk either way regarding his future on the team. For just $1 million, Tom Johnson is a reliable depth piece who can provide a lot of support for a defensive line, and would be an important player to keep around for the future should the Vikings decide to sign him to another contract.
1 sack, 3 comb. tackles
A 4th-round rookie out of Ohio State, Jalyn Holmes was relegated to the bottom of the depth chart and only played in three games, recording exactly one tackle in each, as well as one sack against the Jets in Week 7. Holmes mainly sat back and developed his skills for the year, so hopefully he can be a more solid contributor for the future behind the reliable defense of Zimmer.
0.5 sacks, 13 comb. tackles, 1 FF
Jaleel Johnson is another young developmental rotational player, being taken at the back of the 2017 draft and playing sparingly that year. Like Holmes, he only played a few games although he did have a little more production when he did play. As another developmental player, there isn’t much to be said about his play so far but he has flashed potential for the future.
3 sacks, 55 comb. tackles, 1 FF
Serving as the Vikings’ starting strongside linebacker, Anthony Barr has been a solid player since he was drafted in the first round in 2014, making the Pro Bowl for the last four years. Although the last year was not quite as strong as some years prior, especially 2017, Barr was still very reliable and the biggest playmaker among the team’s linebackers.
He was targeted by fans early in the season, especially Week 4 where McVay’s offensive scheme frequently left him alone in coverage. Many fans thought he was playing slow or lazy but chasing after Woods and Kupp on deep routes will be a difficult task for any 6’5 linebacker, and he was still one of the better coverage LBs in the league through the year.
Barr proved himself as probably the best 4-3 strongside LB in the NFL, especially in run defense and in blitzing, being named PFF’s most efficient pass-rushing linebacker. However the biggest story surrounding him now is his contract situation, where the Vikings will likely be unable to give him the big deal he’s looking for.
With big looming needs such as O-line, Anthony Barr may be a cap casualty this offseason, although hopefully he continues anchoring the team’s linebacking corps for the future.
1 sack, 10 comb. tackles
A 6th-round pick from 2016, Kentrell Brothers was seen as mainly a developmental prospect who had a long way to go before he became a starter in the NFL. Now completing his third year on the team, Brothers has established himself as the team’s backup MLB who was rarely on the field this year but played decent defense when he was called.
As well as this, he was also a solid contributor on special teams, leading the team in special teams tackles. Brothers is probably best known on r/nfl for the highlight of him throwing up on the field during a preseason game which inspired the “fuck-it chuck-it game time” copypasta. He was also suspended the first four games of the season for PEDs and didn’t play until Week 7, although he was a serviceable backup afterwards.
1 sack, 108 comb. tackles, 2 int, 1 FF, 1 FR
Eric Kendricks led the Vikings in tackles again this year, just as he has every year since being drafted in the second round in 2015. As the team’s starting middle linebacker, Kendricks has never been considered a top-notch defender like his former UCLA teammate Barr, but he has continued to be just as much of an average player as he was four years ago with little signs of improvement.
Despite putting up over 100 tackles for the third year in a row, he has still failed to push his game to the next level. The Zimmer defensive system that he has played under his entire professional career as served him well, but it will only get him so far without the size or speed to dominate a game. With a contract keeping him as the team’s MLB until 2023, Eric Kendricks will continue to be a serviceable defender for the near future.
2 sacks, 42 comb. tackles
Another UDFA from 2017, Eric Wilson served as a special teamer before establishing himself as the Vikings’ all-purpose backup linebacker this year, filling in for all three starters at one point over the season. Wilson’s main addition to the LB corps is his speed, which is one of the best in the NFL for linebackers.
He is probably the best linebacker in terms of coverage, although his relatively small size prevents him from being an effective blitzer or defender against power backs. Overall, he has proved this year to be a quality backup who can be a serviceable starter, and likely would be one on many other teams.
With this only being his second year, Eric Wilson will likely remain a quality depth piece for the Vikings, and possibly a starter if Barr isn’t kept around for next year.
53 comb. tackles
A 4th-round pick from 2017, Ben Gedeon was the surprise of the season last year as he established himself as the starting weakside linebacker who proved himself as a great run defender and solid pass defender. Gedeon is probably the quietest member of the defense as he rarely produces highlights or flashy plays but still puts out reliable production.
He is also a great special teams contributor, winning the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year last year. Ben Gedeon has fit in great into Zimmer’s defense and has established himself as a solid linebacker who can consistently defend against the run and will likely be a key contributor for the future.
3 comb. tackles
A 7th-round rookie out of Berkeley, Devante Downs was seen as a developmental addition and likely practice squad target. Although he did end up surpassing expectations by making the 53 man roster, he still played very sparingly and didn’t do anything that really stood out in his few rotational snaps. This season was essentially one for development, but if Barr is out he could see more playing time as a contributor next year.
4 sacks, 43 comb. tackles, 10 PD
After being labeled as a bust for his first two years on the Vikings, the 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander had his breakout year this year, holding down his role as the starting slot corner and playing great in coverage, especially in the second half of the season.
Additionally, he showed off his skills as a blitzer this year, leading the team’s secondary in sacks and QB hits. He also did a great job playing against the run and seemed to take a huge leap in his play recognition this year. Overall, this seemed to be the year that Alexander figured out his role in the Zimmer defense better than ever before and improved to become one of the most reliable pass coverers on the team, giving up zero touchdowns through the year.
With this only being his third year as well, the Vikings can expect good things from Mackensie Alexander for the future.
36 comb. tackles, 1 int, 7 PD
Probably the most surprising contributor of the defense this year. Holton Hill was originally pegged to be a second-day pick in the 2018 draft but ended up being unselected due to off-field issues before signing with Minnesota as a UDFA.
He ended up making the roster and began the season backing up Rhodes and didn’t see the field until Week 7. On his very first drive in the NFL, he ended up intercepting Sam Darnold and playing decent in coverage. He played much more throughout the rest of the season, proving to a solid physical corner in coverage but still lacking an NFL-level play recognition ability, especially against the run. Holton Hill is still a promising young developmental talent and should have a bright future on the team.
44 comb. tackles, 1 int, 8 PD
One of the Vikings’ starting outside corners, Trae Waynes continues to impress while facing the more throws than just about anyone else. While he isn’t quite a shutdown corner in the mold of Rhodes, he can still be a reliable corner who would likely be the CB1 on most teams in the league.
Additionally, Waynes is one of the best run-stopping corners in the NFL, using his elite speed and tackling ability to make himself a solid contributor in the secondary. Probably the biggest story surrounding Waynes, however, is whether the Vikings will give him a 5th-year extension this offseason.
There has been talk of trading Waynes, possibly for a starting O-lineman, in order to save cap money which the Vikings are lacking. Whether he stays on the Vikings or joins another team though, Trae Waynes will continue to be a good player who can improve a defense.
22 comb. tackles, 1 int, 1 int. TD, 1 FF, 1 FR
Although the Vikings desperately needed help on the offensive line this offseason, they decided to draft Mike Hughes in the first round, adding more depth to one of the most stacked secondaries in the NFL. Because of this, Hughes may have been seen too negatively by fans (including myself) who overlooked the fact that he still is a very promising corner who can excel on the outside or in the slot.
He seemed to prove doubters wrong in the first game of the season where he returned Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass for a touchdown and played valiantly all game. This would be short lived, however, as he tore his ACL in Week 6 and missed the rest of the season. Maybe we should’ve prayed to the kneebot harder. In any case, Mike Hughes should return next year better than ever and be and build on his potential even more to establish himself as a quality corner.
It’s a bit of a stretch to count Marcus Sherels as a CB since he hasn’t been a starter at the position since 2013, but there isn’t really a better position to put him in. Since joining the Vikings in 2010 as a UDFA, the Minnesota native has mainly established himself as the team’s primary punt returner.
With the exception of Week 12 where he had to fill in due to an extremely depleted secondary, Sherels exclusively played special teams this year. He played alright on punt returns, not dropping any punts and generally gaining about ten yards per punt, with only one big return of 70 yards although he didn’t get any return TDs this year. Marcus Sherels’ name always comes up as a potential offseason cut but he still finds ways to make the team and he should continue to do so next year as well.
47 comb. tackles, 1 int, 7 PD
Don’t let the PFF grade fool you, Xavier Rhodes is still a great player. As the Vikings’ big-name shutdown corner, he is still the same physical, imposing player he was last year who can shadow a #1 receiver the whole game and consistently win in coverage. The only big concern with his play is a result of his aggressiveness and physicality, as he often draws defensive penalties.
This is often frustrating but it is still a net positive when he stifles that receiver the rest of the game with his press man coverage. The biggest issue Rhodes had this season, though, was not about his performance but rather his injury concerns. It seemed that every week he would have some minor issue, especially with his hamstrings that would keep him sidelined toward the end of games.
If he can get to 100% next year, he should return to being listed as one of the NFL’s elite corners and continue stopping big name receivers from getting yardage.
46 comb. tackles, 3 int, 6 PD
A UDFA from 2015, Anthony Harris was expected to spend another year sitting on the bench as a backup to the dynamic safety duo of Smith and Sendejo, and see little play time. This would all change halfway through the season as Harris’ name was called to be the starting strong safety following an injury to Sendejo, and he never looked back.
Harris established himself as a borderline elite player, only giving up seven catches in coverage and intercepting three passes, tied for most on the Vikings. He demonstrated exceptional ability to make plays when needed, especially in coverage where he gave up a 24.0 passing rating when he was in primary coverage, best in the NFL among safeties.
This year was essentially a prove-it year for Harris as he was playing on a one-year deal, and he absolutely hit it out of the park. Though he’s a pending free agent this offseason, the Vikings should do everything they can to retain Anthony Harris.
3 sacks, 84 comb. tackles, 3 int, 1 FF, 2 FR, 6 PD
You probably heard all about Harrison Smith last year. The 2017 1st-team All-Pro, Pro Bowler, Dwight Stephenson Player of the Year, and DPOY candidate was all over r/nfl as the undisputed best safety in the NFL.
It says a lot about a player when they can still make a Pro Bowl and 2nd-team All Pro and still be considered to have had a huge regression. While he didn’t quite the same flash and production this year, Smith was still a fantastic player who is probably the most important player on the Vikings’ dominant defense. He is listed as a free safety but he can really play anywhere: blitzing QBs like an edge rusher, chasing down running backs like a linebacker, or covering receivers like a corner.
Harrison Smith has the versatility and the play recognition intelligence to do anything needed on defense, and he is anywhere from above average to elite in any aspect you need. Although he is a good player doing anything on defense, his strengths lie in run stuffing and blitzing, and he is probably the best player in the league at disguising his intentions for the play, seamlessly dropping back into coverage or blitzing out of nowhere to win the play.
Smith is a player who can disrupt an entire offense by himself and can and will do anything it takes to stop the progress of any opponent. The Vikings have Harrison Smith locked down until 2021, and he is showing no signs of stopping his dominance any time soon.
27 comb. tackles, 1 FF
The Vikings’ longtime starting strong safety heading into the season, Andrew Sendejo had proved himself as a reliable player who could thrive in a good defense. He began the 2018 season playing at his standard level of good but not great until he was sidelined due to a groin injury in Week 5, sat out for a few games, and then was eventually placed on IR.
With the ascent of Anthony Harris, the Vikings found a replacement who played at a higher level, and he doesn’t seem to have a very bright future with the Vikings. Already being a frequent subject of criticism for his “human missile” tackles, he is seen as somewhat of a dirty player whose play style can get overly aggressive at times.
This along with the fact that the Vikings can cut him for no dead money and save $5 million doing so means that he has a very low chance of staying on the roster for 2019. While Andrew Sendejo still is a starter-quality safety, he probably won’t be seen too favorably by a lot of teams, and the Vikings really won’t be any worse off without him.
16 comb. tackles, 1 FF
A surprise signing from the Bengals, George Iloka was signed by the Vikings for a vet minimum contract just before the regular season began, likely to rejoin him with his former defensive coordinator Zimmer. At the beginning of the season, Iloka was praised for his large size for a safety and the versatility it would allow, but this didn’t really pan out as he played most of his snaps on special teams and only served as a backup or rotational safety.
With a 6’4, 225 lb frame and a familiarity with Zimmer’s defensive system, George Iloka should have the pieces to being a very productive contributor, but failed to make much of an impression this year. He will hit free agency this offseason and there’s a strong possibility he won’t be returning for next year.
0.5 sacks, 32 comb. tackles, 2 PD
Another rotational piece, the former 7th-round pick Jayron Kearse played fantastic on special teams but didn’t make much of an impression playing his actual position as safety. Kearse is another big safety in the mold of Iloka, and likely would’ve been a starter the latter half of the season had it not been for Harris coming out of nowhere and taking the role.
He played serviceably as strong safety but didn’t do much noteworthy or indicative that he should take the role over Harris. Where Kearse really stood out was on special teams, particularly as a gunner, where he was one of the best in the league, and should’ve made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer. Kearse has one more year on his rookie contract, and it is up in the air at this point if he can become a reliable contributor, or if he can stay on the team at all.
In Depth: Offense
4298 yards, 30 TD, 10 int, 99.7 rating
Despite making it to the NFC championship the year before, the Vikings felt the best option they had was to dump the three active quarterbacks they had on the roster and pick up the offseason’s hottest free agent in Kirk Cousins. This decision ended up being a mixed bag, with the team putting up their best QB season since ‘09 Brett Favre, but the team’s offense regressed as a whole, losing five more games than the previous year. Cousins signed with the Vikings in a massive free agent signing in the offseason, agreeing to $84 million over 3 years and getting the first fully guaranteed contract in the NFL.
The Vikings were clearly in win-now mode and felt that with their dominant defense, they just needed a good quarterback to replace the game managers of Bradford and Keenum to take them over the hump and to the Super Bowl. Cousins started off the season hot, throwing for over 400 yards in two of the first four weeks of the season, and orchestrating a 22-point comeback in Lambeau to tie the Packers at the last second. Doubters were silenced after the first quarter of the season, and the team seemed to have the franchise quarterback of the future.
Cousins looked like an absolute gunslinger and was in the top 5 in the league for passing yards, Thielen and Diggs were catching perfectly-thrown deep balls, and the Vikings offense looked stronger than it had in years. Although he had some issues toward the beginning of the season with fumbles and pocket awareness, particularly against Buffalo in Week 3, he was still the team’s future. This generally remained the case through the next several weeks as he would make fantastic throws and put up very good stats, but was still prone to untimely turnovers and offensive stalling.
Cousins’ season would get even worse over the next few weeks as the offense under first-year OC John DeFilippo failed to get anything going two consecutive weeks against New England and Seattle, where the Vikings put up only 17 points total through those two games. This was followed by the firing of DeFilippo and the promotion of QB coach Kevin Stefanski. For the two weeks after this move, the Vikings won against Miami and Detroit in convincing fashion as Cousins was back to throwing dimes, including a 44-yard hail mary to Rudolph just as the half expired against the Lions to take the lead.
With the Vikings still controlling their own playoff destiny, all they had to do was beat the Bears at home under the leadership of Cousins. This is where Cousins’ biggest flaw came through: his spirit. Through the pivotal game, Cousins and the rest of the offense looked beaten, scared, and they looked like they weren’t really fighting for their future. Likely as a result of the atrocious O-line situation, Cousins played scared and was reduced to a checkdown magnet, even against the Bears’ second-string defensive players.
The team looked like they had given up as arguments began on the sidelines and the offense couldn’t move the ball when the future of the season was in their hands. This season was the essence of Kirk Cousins: while he put up a good season and probably did better than any of the Vikings’ 2017 would’ve done, he did not show an ability to perform in the clutch or carry a team to success when the odds are against them. While I still support keeping him as the Vikings’ franchise quarterback, he still has some issues to work on to take the next step.
After starting for the Broncos in 2016 and 2017 and putting up mediocre performances, Trevor Siemian was traded to the Vikings for a 5th-round draft pick, establishing himself as the backup to Cousins. Since the Vikings’ front office loves backups with experience, Siemian was essentially guaranteed the backup position despite a lackluster preseason performance where he was overshadowed by Cousins and Kyle Sloter.
Siemian will be a free agent this offseason, although the Vikings will probably make an attempt to keep him since there aren’t many other quality backups like him hitting the market this year.
The Vikings and Broncos really like sharing quarterbacks. Originally an undrafted rookie signed to the Broncos, Kyle Sloter was released and signed with the Vikings in the 2017 offseason, where he was put on the practice squad and eventually made the active roster in 2018.
Although his only playing time was in the preseason, Sloter still impressed. He showed a great ability to avoid pressure and complete accurate throws downfield, and didn’t throw a single interception through the preseason. While this may have been against substandard competition, he still showed himself to be a competent quarterback and would’ve easily been the primary backup if he had experience like Siemian, who he performed much better than.
578 yards, 4.1 Y/A, 6 TD
The Viking’s #2 runningback, the former Raider Latavius Murray has established himself as the team’s primary 3rd-down and power back. Standing at 6’3 with a 4.38 40, Murray has the size and speed to power through defenders as an effective downhill runner. It’s hard to tell how effective he could’ve been this year with such a dismal O-line situation, but Murray still did alright with what he was given, running for a couple impressive touchdowns while he was filling in for Cook for a few weeks. Murray is signed through the 2019 season.
615 yards, 4.6 Y/A, 2 TD
The main dynamic with Dalvin Cook has been his potential as opposed to his tendency to injury. After looking promising last year in his four games before tearing his ACL, Cook returned in 2018 looking just as good, leading the league in broken tackles per run and managing some impressive runs in the beginning of the season, although he did some fumbling issues.
He was then sidelined for six games in the middle of the season from a hamstring issue, and ran well when he finally came back, but was not used effectively under DeFilippo who significantly limited his runs. The first game with a new OC was Cook’s statement game of the year, running for two touchdowns and 136 yards, winning NFC offensive player of the week.
Similar to last year, Cook demonstrated impressive agility and ability to graze off tackles with great top speed, although he still needs to work more on his power running since he’s pretty much ineffective in goal line situations. Through Dalvin Cook’s short career, he has flashed a very high ceiling, and has the potential to become one of the NFL’s top runningbacks if he can stay healthy.
Ameer Abdullah was brought onto the team after being cut from the Lions after Week 9, and almost exclusively played on special teams as a depth piece. Abdullah didn’t have a single rush for the Vikings, but became the primary kick returner and a solid all-around special teamer. Abdullah will enter free agency this offseason but could return to Minnesota to return as a low-cost depth piece who can contribute if needed.
47 yards, 4.3 Y/A
A UDFA rookie out of Cincinnati, Mike Boone was a fairly surprising addition to the 53 man roster after impressing in the preseason. Boone was placed at the back of the depth chart, and only had 11 rushes on the season, although he showed impressive burst speed and shiftiness. Boone is another developmental piece who could return much stronger next year.
8 yards, 1.3 Y/A, 85 rec. yards, 7.7 Y/R
The only fullback on the roster, Minnesota native CJ Ham didn’t have much production this year on offense, but was a solid special teamer. Ham didn’t really get a chance to prove himself this season as he was only given 6 carries and didn’t have the most impressive result.
His role on offense, though, was usually as a blocker. His job was more difficult when the O-line frequently let pass rushers through who could easily beat him with speed or bullrushes, but Ham still didn’t do himself any favors in the blocking game. Despite this, CJ Ham is still a fan favorite who does a lot of community work in his hometown of Duluth and is a well-respected member of the team.
113 rec, 1373 yards, 9 TD
You probably heard all about Adam Thielen this year. The scrappy lunch pail-toting, first-one-in, last-one-out, sneakily fast gym rat established himself among the top names at wide receiver, making the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row and putting up the most receiving yards by a Viking since Randy Moss in 2003.
Thielen started off the season red-hot, becoming the first NFL player to get at least 100 receiving yards in each of their first 8 games. This 8-game streak also tied Calvin Johnson’s all time record for most consecutive 100 yard games. At this point the consensus was that Thielen was one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best. He was the #1 fantasy player and seemed absolutely unstoppable.
Unfortunately it seemed that without a third major receiving threat, he was very reliant on Diggs being covered to put up big numbers, as he only caught for 22 yards the next week against Detroit. Thielen still finished off the season well enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod, but with Cousins becoming more hesitant to make deep throws and the Vikings lacking a third receiver to attract coverage from Thielen and Diggs, his production dropped off in the second half of the season. If the Vikings can solve these two issues in the offseason, Adam Thielen’s name can return to the list of elite receivers in the NFL.
102 rec, 1021 yards, 9 TD
Despite the lower output and PFF grade, Stefon Diggs is probably the best receiver on the Vikings. A technician, Diggs’ route running might be the best in the league, and his ability to quickly gain separation or make a play happen out of nothing is unrivalled.
As you may have seen from the Geico commercials this year, Diggs also has some of the best hands in the NFL and almost never drops passes. While he still has yet to make a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, those lofty standards are definitely in the realm of possibility if he continues developing into an elite receiver who hogs coverage and still puts up over 1000 yards. At least he has name recognition from the Minneapolis Miracle now. Diggs signed 5 year, $72 million contract last offseason keeping him on the team until at least 2023, where he can continue impressing.
4 rec, 39 yards
A UDFA out of Northern Illinois, Chad Beebe was expected to be a developmental prospect who could learn from two of the top receivers in the league. He looked impressive in the preseason and was seen as the top rookie receiver. Despite this, Beebe began the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster after Week 8. In his first game, he caught three passes for 21 yards, but that would be just about all he did his first year.
17 rec, 231 yards, 5 TD
As Dan Fouts put it, “It seems like all Aldrick Robinson does is catch touchdowns”. The former Redskin who caught for Cousins before was signed to the Vikings after Week 2, and immediately became a paragon of efficiency, catching two passes for two touchdowns against the Rams in primetime. The closest thing the team had to a deep threat, Robinson had the speed to make it work, but didn’t have the hands to come down with the catch a lot of the time, finishing the season with a catch percentage below 50%.
Despite this, he still managed to have nearly a third of his catches go for touchdowns, but that basically ended up being all he did. Robinson was signed to a one-year vet minimum contract for 2018, and hopefully will be able to do the same for 2019 as he was the closest thing to a WR3 this year.
35 catches, 302 yards, 1 TD
It’s only fitting that if the Vikings get to have two of the best receivers in the NFL, they should have one of the worst as well. After three years in the league, the 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell has cemented his status as a genuine bust, failing to make any sort of an impression on the offense. There are some redeeming qualities about Treadwell, though.
Standing at 6’3 and 220 lbs, he is a big receiver who can be difficult to tackle and can make powerful runs if he gets the ball. He is also one of the best blocking receivers, opening up the run game as he can usually win on blocks against linebackers or corners. However, his game still has too many flaws to qualify him as anything other than a disappointment. He has shown an inability to get any sort of separation from defenders as he doesn’t have the route running ability of his teammates, and has only caught one touchdown through his first three seasons.
He also suffers from concentration drops, often at extremely inopportune times. In 2018, Treadwell put up an unbelievable 15.2% drop rate on catchable passes, costing the team many critical conversions. Additionally, his attitude has been less than ideal, most notably when he threw his helmet during a play that allowed the Saints to get a critical touchdown in a close game as the half was ending.
Treadwell has too much dead cap money for the Vikings to get any sort of financial benefit for cutting him, but they should absolutely seek for a WR3 and prevent Treadwell from hurting the team in the future.
64 rec, 634 yards, 4 TD
After making the Pro Bowl in 2017, Kyle Rudolph’s 2018 season seemed a little tame in comparison. As the starting tight end, Rudolph still managed to put up decent stats, but outside of his 44-yard hail mary reception in Week 16, his performance wasn’t the most impressive.
Despite being 6’6 and 265 lbs, Rudolph was unbelievably easy to tackle, and never seemed to fight for yardage or put much effort into his play. While he has been a fantastic red zone threat for the Vikings in the past, he only managed 4 touchdowns this year, his lowest number since 2014. Despite this, he still is an above-average TE, as he generally has pretty good hands and can be an alright blocker.
Rudolph was also the Viking’s nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year, where he easily won the fan vote but ultimately finished second behind Chris Long. Rudolph’s contract has been discussed as a potential target for restructuring, although he’ll probably stay if even if that doesn’t end up happening as he’s a fan favorite. Despite some shortcomings, he still is a reliable option at tight end who can make big plays.
5 rec, 77 yards
A 5th-round rookie out of Central Michigan, Tyler Conklin was expected to be another developmental piece who was mainly there for depth. Although he was on the active roster the entire season, he only touched the ball three times through the first 14 weeks, picking up 24 yards on 3 receptions while being an okay blocker.
His big game was in Week 15, where he caught for 53 yards, including one 33-yard sideline catch on third down to keep the Vikings’ drive alive. While Conklin didn’t do much this season, he should factor into the Stefanski offense more and develop into a more regular player.
5 rec, 36 yards
Another tight end with little offensive production, David Morgan’s strengths lie in blocking. Taken in the 6th round in 2016, he has flown under the radar to become one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the league. Morgan missed several games with a knee injury, significantly reducing the Vikings’ overall blocking ability. Overall, David Morgan is a reliable contributor who excels at doing the dirty work to allow plays to succeed.
Serving as the Vikings’ starting left tackle, Riley Reiff was less than ideal, but still far from the worst problem on the O-line. Reiff was fairly inconsistent in 2018, holding down the outside some games, and getting beat nearly every snap in others.
Particularly in Weeks 3 and 4, Reiff was constantly beaten, giving up three strip sacks in those two games alone. He was also sidelined for a few games in the middle of the season with a foot injury, but didn’t seem to be any worse off when he returned. Reiff is signed to the Vikings for another three seasons, although there may be some more competition coming his way.
After being drafted in the second round in 2018, many Vikings fans (myself included) were skeptical of the pick as they would’ve preferred a guard. Brian O’Neill proved doubters wrong as he took over the starting right tackle role by Week 6 and never looked back, holding down the right side.
In fact, O’Neill would finish among the best rookie tackles for pressure percentage at just 6.2%, and didn’t allow a single sack through 497 snaps. With so much development in just his first year, Brian O’Neill showed a lot of potential, and should be a regular fixture on the O-line well into the future.
Originally a UDFA for the Jaguars, Rashod Hill has established himself as the backup tackle on either side for the Vikings. Hill started the first five games at right tackle, then filled in for Reiff on the left side for three games before returning to his backup role as Reiff and O’Neill started for the rest of the season.
As a backup O-lineman on the Vikings, you can probably imagine how he is. Even on an extremely weak line, Hill had the lowest grade through the first five weeks, giving up several pressures and failing to do much in the run game. While he can be a short-term depth piece, don’t expect him do anything beyond that.
With Elflein being out at the beginning of the season and no center depth behind him, the Vikings traded their 2019 seventh-round pick for Giants’ backup Brett Jones. Jones struggled at the beginning of the year, giving up several pressures and preventing runs up the middle from materializing in his 3 starts.
Once Elflein returned, he was relegated to backup duty and didn’t see much play time after that. Jones will enter free agency this offseason, and may be let go if the Vikings draft a center in the early rounds of the draft.
The starting center for most of the season, Elflein was PFF’s lowest-graded center in the NFL, although he gets somewhat of a pass as he was injured through the offseason and didn’t get a chance to work out before he started.
Additionally, Elflein is a relatively small and athletic center who thrives in zone schemes where he can move to the second level. DeFilippo did not do this. Hopefully this year was just a fluke as all aspects of his game were firmly below average and both his pass protection and run blocking left much to be desired.
A journeyman who was brought in during the offseason due to his familiarity with Cousins, Tom Compton also left a lot to be desired. Giving up a phenomenal amount of pressures and sacks, Compton didn’t really do much in pass protection to demonstrate any ability beyond that of a depth piece. His run blocking wasn’t much better as the Vikings generally couldn’t get much done with runs up the middle. Compton will hit free agency this offseason but will probably be re-signed as a depth piece.
After doing alright at right tackle last year, the Vikings decided to move Mike Remmers to right guard, a decision that backfired in their face. Just like Compton, Remmers also couldn’t get anything done in pass protection and gave up some horrendous sacks, including one notable instance where he stepped aside and pushed a Packers defender right into Cousins.
He did a slightly better job of run blocking than Compton, but it was still far from ideal. With Remmers currently slated to earn over $5 million and no dead cap, Remmers is a prime target to be cut by the Vikings this offseason to save on cap space.
A late round pick in 2017, Danny Isadora also didn’t do much on the Vikings, serving as the backup guard through the season. While he did start two games in place of Compton, Isadora didn’t see much playing time, which is pretty telling considering who his competition was.
In Depth: Special Teams
1/4 FG, 6/6 XP
The first kicker taken in the 2018 draft, Daniel Carlson left Auburn as the all-time points leader in the SEC and had a huge leg that could routinely make field goals over 50 and even 60 yards. At least, that was the case until he met at-the-time special teams coach Mike “Nuke the Gays” Preifer.
Carlson managed to do well enough to take the role from Kai Forbath and start the season as the team’s kicker, and looked good in Week 1, making all four kicks. You probably know how it went from here. In Week 2 against the Packers at Lambeau, Carlson missed his only field goal in regulation, then missed two field goals in overtime, including one as the clock expired that would’ve handed the Vikings a victory that ultimately would’ve taken them to the playoffs.
Somehow in only two weeks of playtime, Preifer had already destroyed his confidence and his preexisting kicking skill. Ignoring the common denominator in all recent Vikings kicking failures, the team decided to cut Carlson immediately after that game instead of taking a look at the coaching.
Carlson went on to be the kicker for the Raiders for the rest of the 2018 season, making 34 out of 35 kicks, winning an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and proving that the problem really was Minnesota and Preifer in particular. Hopefully he has a successful career in the NFL with competent coaching.
21/28 FG, 30/31 XP
Dan Bailey, the second most accurate kicker of all time before 2018, was surprisingly cut from Dallas in the offseason following a modest decline in accuracy and concerns with injury. Going unsigned at the beginning of the season, Bailey wound up signing with the Vikings after Carlson was cut following Week 2.
Bailey proved to be a slightly below average signing, making 75% of his field goal attempts, although they mostly came in bunches. He would have a three-game stretch where he’d make all of his kicks and then all of a sudden miss two or three in a row.
Although he did have low numbers at the end of his career with the Cowboys, they were mostly the result of injury that seemed to have mostly recovered from this season. Maybe that was the issue still, or maybe it was Preifer again. At any rate, Bailey will hit free agency this offseason. Now that the Vikings have a ST coordinator who actually cares about kickers and there has been talk of adding a kicking-specific coach, hopefully the Vikings can re-sign him and work with him to improve the kicking game for next year.
45.2 avg distance
A journeyman who last played for the Steelers, Matt Wile was a surprise signing in the preseason as he replaced the mediocre Ryan Quigley. Wile proved to be a very good punter, putting up great hangtime and distance, and preventing any big returns. He had one of the highest average distances too, while avoiding a lot of touchbacks. Wile was just re-signed for another year, and there isn’t expected to be a lot of competition surround the punter position.
Upcoming Free Agents
|Nick Easton||C||Maybe||Missed all of 2018 (neck)|
|Anthony Harris||SS||Yes||Restricted Free Agent (RFA)|
|Matt Wile||P||Yes||Signed to one-year extension on March 5th|
|C.J Ham||RB||Yes||Singed to one-year extension on March 5th|
|Cedrick Lang||TE||Yes||Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA)|
Dan Bailey had a very rough year, with one of the lowest field goal percentages in the NFL (75%). This is the same statistic that led to his release from the Dallas Cowboys, so saying that Bailey should be re-signed is a bit of a head-scratcher on the surface. However, Bailey hit 30 of his 31 extra point attempts and will be paired with a new special teams coordinator in Marwan Maalouf. His contract next season will most certainly be cheap, so why not give the veteran kicker another shot? After cycling through four kickers in three years, some consistency at the position would be more than welcome.
Anthony Harris was called upon in response for Andrew Sendejo going down with a groin injury and has played lights-out since. At times, Harris was as good (if not better) than Sendejo in coverage, picking off three passes in nine games. Harris played so well, in fact, that there's a possibility that he could be the team's starting strong safety going into 2019. Of all of the Vikings' soon-to-be free agents, this signing seems the most obvious.
Matt Wile and C.J Ham are both Exclusive Rights Free Agents who play little-utilized positions (punter and fullback), so their new contracts would be for pennies on the dollar. Both played well in limited time and there's no reason why either of them shouldn't be on the roster next season. EDIT: Matt Wile and C.J Ham have signed one-year extensions with the Vikings, each for $645,000. Here is a short article regarding the signings.
Tight ends Cedrick Lang and Josiah Price are also ERFAs, meaning there's no harm in re-signing them to non-guaranteed deals. Neither have played a down for the Vikings, so they are purely for depth at the position. They'll be on the roster bubble if they do in fact re-sign.
Anthony Barr and Sheldon Richardson
The "maybe" section will probably be the longest and most speculative portion of the three. The two biggest names that are set to leave are linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. There's a lot to talk about with these two, so let's dive into Barr first.
Anthony Barr was Mike Zimmer's very first draft pick when he joined the team, and the raw linebacker from UCLA looked like he could be a star if developed correctly. Fast forward five seasons and Barr has built himself a rather impressive resume. He has four Pro Bowl selections to his name and has been a fixture in the Vikings' top-ten defense. However, despite playing well, there might not be enough to warrant a massive extension. He is the classic case of a "good, not great" player looking to be paid like a top performer at his position.
There's little known information on what Barr is looking for in his contract, but it will likely be around the $12 million range that he earned in 2018. With limited cap space and a defense already stacked with talent, is there really a need to dish out the big bucks for an above-average linebacker? Personally, I'd love to keep Barr paired with his college teammate (and best friend) Eric Kendricks, but $12 million per year is a little too steep. It should also be noted that the Vikings allegedly attempted to trade Barr during the 2018 season, making his return even less likely.
During last offseason, the Vikings decided to take a one-year rental deal on former Jet and Seahawk Sheldon Richardson. The investment paid off for both parties. Richardson had his best statistical year since 2015, with 4.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. He and Linval Joseph made a dynamic duo in the middle of the Vikings' defense, but it's uncertain if they'll be able to pair up again next season.
Unfortunately, the Richardson situation is very similar to Anthony Barr's. The Vikings are very deep at the defensive tackle position, with Jaleel Johnson and former fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes waiting in the wings. Johnson and Holmes are still on their rookie deals, making them a far more affordable option than Richardson's possible $10+ million per year. Although he is more likely to be re-signed than Barr, the possibility of him landing a big contract elsewhere seems the most probable.
The Other "Maybe"s
The following players are all seasoned veterans that would be nice depth signings, but at the same time are expendable. Nick Easton is one of the biggest question marks, who missed all of the 2018 season due to a neck injury. The nimble guard played well in 2017, and appeared to be on the path for a new deal in Minnesota. He and then-rookie Pat Elflein provided a solid interior to a troubled offensive line. He is a decent player, but the likelihood of him staying with the Vikings drops significantly with his injury.
It's almost a running joke how long Marcus Sherels can manage to be on the team's roster bubble every year. Despite the Vikings' insane depth at cornerback, Sherels always seems to make the final 53-man roster. He's still a good punt returner, but at 31 years old, it may be time to allow Mike Hughes to take over returning duties.
Ameer Abdullah didn't have a single carry for the Vikings this season, but it is possible that the team keeps him around as a change-of-pace back. With Latavius Murray likely gone, Abdullah provides good insurance in the event that undrafted free agents Mike Boone and Roc Thomas don't perform well. Speaking of insurance, right tackle Rashod Hill could also be in the market for a low-value deal. He's nothing special but will be a decent backup to Brian O'Neill.
Thanks, but No Thanks
Latavius Murray is one of the hardest players to categorize in this section. The Vikings would certainly like him to return. Murray had a handful of great games in place of an injured Dalvin Cook, and the two backs complement each other's skills nicely. However, Cook is the clear lead back, and Murray has no intentions of being a backup. Despite being 29 years old and having a downhill-running style, the former UCF Knight sees himself as a potential lead back. The only way in which Murray is likely to return to Minnesota is if he swallows his pride and accepts a reduced role behind Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings allowed Tom Johnson to walk last year in free agency, and it's likely they're willing to let that happen again. Johnson will be 35 next season and has two promising players behind him on the depth chart (Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes). Johnson has had a great tenure in Minnesota as a rotational inside pass rusher, but it may be time to say goodbye to "Sebastian Thunderbucket".
Tom Compton started 14 games in place of Nick Easton and that's about it. Compton played very poorly and it's unlikely that he will be the team's starting guard again next season. Unless he is returning as a backup, I am perfectly fine with letting him leave for greener pastures. The same can be said for backup quarterback Trevor Siemian, who the Vikings traded for last offseason. He's an experienced veteran and a solid backup, but Kyle Sloter could be pushing for the Vikes' #2 quarterback gig. Sloter outperformed Siemian by a mile during the preseason, so the team may elect to go with the player with the higher ceiling (and lower cost).
Possible Cap Casualties
The following is a list of Vikings players that could possibly be released in order to free up cap space heading into free agency. These selections are COMPLETELY speculative and are not meant as cut predictions.
|Name||Position||2019 Cap Hit||Notes|
|Andrew Sendejo||S||$5.5 million||31 years old and losing ground to Anthony Harris|
|Mike Remmers||G/T||$6.3 million||Replaced by Brian O'Neill then underperformed at guard|
|Kyle Rudolph||TE||$7.6 million|
|Everson Griffin||DE||$11.7 million||Recently rumored to be on trade block|
|Trae Waynes||CB||$9.1 million||Recently rumored to be on trade block|
Andrew Sendejo has been a possible cut candidate for a season or two now, but this season the possibility of that happening seems more real. Sendejo is a hard-hitting safety that gives up the occasional big play and has a history of being injured. In fact, Sendejo hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2014. This point is pressed further with the outstanding play of Anthony Harris, who covered for Sendejo in his absence. If he were to be released, the Vikings would open up $5.5 million in cap space with no dead money.
Looking back, the 2017 offseason signing of tackle Mike Remmers seems to be worse and worse of an idea. Remmers started as the Vikings' right tackle in 2017, only to be replaced by rookie Brian O'Neill the year after. The coaching staff decided to move Remmers inside to right guard, but to no avail; He was ranked as the league's 48th-best guard, per Pro Football Focus. Simply put, Mike Remmers is not worth his 5-year, $30 million contract. Releasing Remmers would free $6.3 million in cap space and result in $1.8 million in dead money.
Here's where things get interesting. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has had a very productive career with the Vikings. He's been a solid, reliable target in the receiving game even when the Vikings had next to no talent at the wide receiver position. He even had a decent 2018 campaign, with 64 catches for 634 yards. However, there seems to be growing displeasure over how much the two-time Pro Bowler is being paid. $7.6 million is a steep price for an above-average tight end. Allegedly, the Vikings have reached out to Rudolph to restructure his contract, to which he rejected. Although cutting Rudolph would be a pretty big surprise, it's a situation worth monitoring within the next few months.
Similarly, the Vikings have also contacted defensive end Everson Griffen in order to maneuver some more cap space. Griffen also rejected, leaving the Vikings' front office with a difficult choice: absorb his massive cap hit for another season or dump off his contract to a team needing a pass-rusher. Griffen is still a very talented defensive end, but Danielle Hunter is now the premier player on their defensive line, and there's no need to pay such a hefty price for Griffen. In the last few days there have been reports that the Vikings could possibly trade Griffen, although this seems to be more speculation than anything.
Cornerback Trae Waynes has seen the majority of trade rumors for the Vikings so far, and not without good reasons. Waynes is due $9.1 million in 2019 due to his fifth-year option being exercised, which is a high price for a #2 corner. The Vikings are also stacked at cornerback, with Xavier Rhodes, Mike Hughes, and Holton Hill also on the roster. Nevertheless, Waynes is a talented player that has consistently shown improvement throughout his time in Minnesota. The Vikings are willing to trade him, but only for the right price.
Written by u/minnesotanationalist
Interior Offensive Line
It’s no secret that the most important change the Vikings need to make this season is among their interior offensive line, which was the worst in the NFL. Multiple additions need to be brought in, preferably both guards.
For free agency, the lack of cap space really hurts the Vikings as many of the starters to hit free agency will be looking for big contracts that the Vikings probably won’t be able to fulfill unless they make some other changes to their roster. The most prominent free agents are guards Rodger Saffold (LAR) and Quinton Spain (TEN), and centers Matt Paradis (DEN) and Mitch Morse (KC).
Given the steep price of many of these players, the Vikings will take at most one of them, and Saffold and Paradis might be out of their price range. I’d say the most likely free agent addition would be Spain, who previously served as the left guard for the Titans. He was a solid pass protector who wouldn’t command too much money.
For the draft, the Vikings should also be looking to pick an interior lineman in the first two rounds. With the 18th pick, top OL prospects Jonah Williams (Alabama) and Greg Little (Mississippi) probably being out of reach, the best remaining pick for the Vikings would be Cody Ford (Oklahoma).
Other top guard prospects include Dalton Risner (Kansas State), Chris Lindstrom (Boston College), and Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin). Top center prospects include Garrett Bradbury (NC State), Erik McCoy (Texas A&M), and Michael Jordan (Ohio State).
Despite having the best WR duo in the NFL, the Vikings are still lacking a real WR3, especially someone who can serve as a deep threat. The Vikings need somebody who can work with blazing speed alongside their established route runners.
For free agency, there aren’t a lot of players who would be able to make a meaningful addition to the team while also commanding a reasonable salary for a WR3. There’s a decent chance the Vikings won’t take anyone in free agency due to their limited cap space, but some possibilities include John Brown (BAL), who could give the Vikings the speed and vertical gamestyle they need, and he could be a fantastic contributor if he can fix his drop issues. Another possibility could be Jamison Crowder (WAS) due to his familiarity with Cousins from back in Washington.
For the draft, the Vikings probably won’t be taking any receivers in the first two or three rounds as they should be focusing on interior o-linemen and a Barr/Richardson replacement if needed. It’s hard to tell who could be a third-day draft pickup, but if they wanted to go for a receiver a little earlier, possible selections include Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) and Riley Ridley (Georgia), both of whom have the speed and talent to be a big contributor on the Vikings’ offense.
Since there is a pretty good chance Anthony Barr won’t be returning to the Vikings next year, they need to find somebody to take on his role as a big, powerful outside linebacker who can rush the passer when needed.
For free agency, two possible pickups for the Vikings would be Jordan Hicks (PHI) and KJ Wright (SEA). Both of them have the size and speed to be quality linebackers, and would be able to fulfill essentially the same tasks as Barr. They both also have experience in the league for teams with quality defense, so they could fit in well with a system like Zimmer’s.
For the draft, the Vikings might also be looking at top OLB prospects if they don’t like any of the iOL options in the first or second round. Possible selections include Tre Lamar (Clemson), and Vosean Joseph (Florida), who both have the size and potential to be the starting SLB in place of Barr.
It was a turbulent year for the Minnesota Vikings, but there's still plenty of hope. Most of the team's key players are locked up through 2020. Kirk Cousins has a full offseason to blend with the team, which will (hopefully) lead to less miscommunications next season. Aside from the offensive line, the Vikings have very few weaknesses and remain a strong, well-rounded team.
When I think of the Minnesota Vikings' 2018 season, I'm reminded of a specific quote from Helen Keller: "Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." In my mind, this entire season was the team's experience of trial and suffering. Through off-the-field tragedies and heartbreaking losses, there is no doubt in my mind that the Vikings will be a stronger team moving forward. Whether that mental fortitude translates to wins remains to be seen, but there is still reason to believe that this team will be one to be reckoned with in the coming seasons.
Thank you so much for reading this rendition of 32 Teams/32 Days!! I'd like to give a special shoutout to u/minnesotanationalist and u/XstarshooterX for helping me throw this together. This was a massive project and both writers did an amazing job with finishing this on time. I'd also like to thank u/therealDoctorKay for organizing the series and all of the other team writers for their fantastic work. See you all for the offseason recap series! Skol!