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Again, more opportunities for him to get on the field

Not long after the 2019 NFL Draft, there was word circulating that the Minnesota Vikings were considering moving safety Jayron Kearse to the weakside linebacker position in an effort to get him on the field more often. Now, with a new round of OTAs starting in Eagan on Tuesday, the Vikings could be looking at a way to get Kearse on the field even more frequently.

Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that Kearse is one of a handful of players that will be looking to get some time as the nickel defensive back position.

Kearse, who is going into the final year of his rookie contract, was a seventh-round pick of the Vikings out of Clemson in 2016. His college teammate, Mackensie Alexander, was selected by the Vikings in the second round of that year’s draft, and had an outstanding year in the nickel role last season after fighting such a transition for his first couple of seasons.

“Last year, I played the nickel, but that was all off of instincts,” said Kearse, who played a career-high 202 defensive snaps [19.4%] last season. “Now, I had time to work at it knowing I’ll be in that role and playing that position.”

I’m not sure how the Vikings are going to juggle their secondary in 2019. I’m not sure if taking Alexander out of his spot as the nickel defender would be the best move for the team, but Kearse has shown that he can handle greater responsibility as well.

The Vikings have an embarrassment of riches in their secondary, and players like Kearse and Alexander are a big part of that. Being able to move players around is a big deal not only in the case of potential injuries, but it would give the team greater flexibility in handling certain in-game situations, depending on how their opponents are lining up.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Mike Zimmer, George Edwards, and company do with the defense going forward, since it appears that they’re going to attempt to give themselves as many potential options as possible.

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But the team wants a full-time coach

Given the issues that they’ve hard at the position in recent years. . .and by “recent” I mean “for about 20 years or so”. . .it was no surprise when Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned during this offseason that the team was looking for a kicking coach. A report has surfaced that one of the NFL’s all-time great kickers reached out to the team about such an arrangement, but was rebuffed.

John Carney, who is the fifth-leading scorer in the history of the National Football League and one of the few players to play in the NFL in four different decades, told the Vikings that he would be willing to serve as the team’s part-time kicking coach, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“I did offer my services on a part-time basis,” Carney said about talking to Minnesota special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf. “I do run a business in California, so I couldn’t do a full-time deal … It would be difficult to close (the Carney Training Facility) down for five months.”

And what was the Vikings’ response to Carney’s offer?

“I think they’re looking for a guy full time,” Carney said.

Carney’s career began back in 1988, and he played for seven NFL teams over the course of a career that came to an end in 2010. He has scored 2,062 career points. He converted 82.4% of his field goals over the course of his career.

According to the article from Tomasson, Carney does have some familiarity with the Vikings, as he has worked with punter Matt Wile on both his punting skills and his holding skills. However, it doesn’t look as though Carney is going to get more familiar with the team by becoming part of the coaching staff, and that’s unfortunate, to say the least.

Hopefully the Vikings can find someone with Carney’s credentials to handle the job going forward.

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Counting the days until training camp......

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. We had rain......lots of rain, and we even saw a few snow/ice pellets. Thankfully, it finally cleared yesterday and we were able to get outside and have a little fun in the ...........well, it wasn’t sunny, so it wasn’t fun in the sun, I suppose it was fun in the cloudy? Fun in the........something. I dunno, we got outside, anyway.

Late last week and over the weekend, there was a bit of a to-and-fro with the Vikings’ tight end group. Rudolph stated that he was too young to take a pay cut (aren’t we all?), then later that day, Irv Smith commented that he and Rudy could be a great combination. The Vikings front office might agree with Smith, as a rumor has it that they offered Rudolph an offer for a contract extension, Chris has that story here. I don’t know if the rumor is true, but if it is, I would be surprised, unless it contains little to no guaranteed money. Even if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t reduce this year’s cap hit, I see no reason to float a five year deal to an aging tight end. I’m guessing either the rumor is not true, or the contract offeror was drunk. Being it was Friday, I lean toward the latter.

Around the DN since our last open thread:

Luft Krigare and the gang are back with Good Morning Gjallahorn episode 051 - Locked on with Luke Braun.

Wludford looks at Kirk Cousins and sees lots of stats, but thinks maybe they’re nothing super?

Danielle Hunter made the Pro Football Focus Top 25 Under 25 list, per Chris.

Other Vikings/NFL news, other sports news, and the occasional oddity or annoyance:

Over at Vikings.com, there’s a piece where 3 Vikings made the ‘Top 20 Traded Players in NFL History’ list, they shared 10 moments that defined Brian Robison’s football journey, and NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported on Kyle Rudolph’s status and potential trade value.

NFL.com has a list of the NFL’s most complete teams in 2019. They have the Browns at number 3........sigh. Okay, I know the media loves to latch on to catch phrases, and they run with the latest and greatest stories (even if they make little to no sense), but can we just step back and look at the Browns for a second? Everyone is going crazy about a team who went 7-8-1 last year. Now, that’s not a horrible record, it’s almost average, and is better than 0-16, but with the buzz around this team, you’d think they’re nipping on the heels of the Patriots. In the decade, yes DECADE (that’s ten years) preceding last year, they had won a whopping total of 38 games, which put them at an average annual win total of 3.8 games per year. Now, pardon me if I don’t pencil them in as the AFC champs quite yet. I think I’ll let them put a couple winning seasons together first, or maybe wait for A WINNING SEASON before handing over the Lombardi trophy. Sheesh.

We come to today’s media selection:

Here’s a great one from Dropkick Murphys. Enjoy!

Dropkick Murphys - "Rose Tattoo" (Video) - YouTube

Again, we all know the rules, but in case someone is new:
  • No discussion of politics or religion
  • No feeding of the trolls
  • This isn’t a male version of The View, so leave the gender hatred at the door
  • Keep the bad language to a minimum (using the spoiler tags, if you must)
  • Speaking of which, if discussing a newer show or movie, please use spoiler tags
  • No pictures that could get someone fired or in serious trouble with their employer
  • If you can’t disagree in a civil manner, feel free to go away
  • While navigating the open thread, just assume it’s sarcasm

With that, the beer light is on and the bar is open. Belly up and tie one on. Don’t forget to tip your waitress, and try the cereal and pancakes.

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Counting the days until training camp......

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. We had rain......lots of rain, and we even saw a few snow/ice pellets. Thankfully, it finally cleared yesterday and we were able to get outside and have a little fun in the ...........well, it wasn’t sunny, so it wasn’t fun in the sun, I suppose it was fun in the cloudy? Fun in the........something. I dunno, we got outside, anyway.

Late last week and over the weekend, there was a bit of a to-and-fro with the Vikings’ tight end group. Rudolph stated that he was too young to take a pay cut (aren’t we all?), then later that day, Irv Smith commented that he and Rudy could be a great combination. The Vikings front office might agree with Smith, as a rumor has it that they offered Rudolph an offer for a contract extension, Chris has that story here. I don’t know if the rumor is true, but if it is, I would be surprised, unless it contains little to no guaranteed money. Even if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t reduce this year’s cap hit, I see no reason to float a five year deal to an aging tight end. I’m guessing either the rumor is not true, or the contract offeror was drunk. Being it was Friday, I lean toward the latter.

Around the DN since our last open thread:

Luft Krigare and the gang are back with Good Morning Gjallahorn episode 051 - Locked on with Luke Braun.

Wludford looks at Kirk Cousins and sees lots of stats, but thinks maybe they’re nothing super?

Danielle Hunter made the Pro Football Focus Top 25 Under 25 list, per Chris.

Other Vikings/NFL news, other sports news, and the occasional oddity or annoyance:

Over at Vikings.com, there’s a piece where 3 Vikings made the ‘Top 20 Traded Players in NFL History’ list, they shared 10 moments that defined Brian Robison’s football journey, and NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported on Kyle Rudolph’s status and potential trade value.

NFL.com has a list of the NFL’s most complete teams in 2019. They have the Browns at number 3........sigh. Okay, I know the media loves to latch on to catch phrases, and they run with the latest and greatest stories (even if they make little to no sense), but can we just step back and look at the Browns for a second? Everyone is going crazy about a team who went 7-8-1 last year. Now, that’s not a horrible record, it’s almost average, and is better than 0-16, but with the buzz around this team, you’d think they’re nipping on the heels of the Patriots. In the decade, yes DECADE (that’s ten years) preceding last year, they had won a whopping total of 38 games, which put them at an average annual win total of 3.8 games per year. Now, pardon me if I don’t pencil them in as the AFC champs quite yet. I think I’ll let them put a couple winning seasons together first, or maybe wait for A WINNING SEASON before handing over the Lombardi trophy. Sheesh.

We come to today’s media selection:

Here’s a great one from Dropkick Murphys. Enjoy!

Dropkick Murphys - "Rose Tattoo" (Video) - YouTube

Again, we all know the rules, but in case someone is new:
  • No discussion of politics or religion
  • No feeding of the trolls
  • This isn’t a male version of The View, so leave the gender hatred at the door
  • Keep the bad language to a minimum (using the spoiler tags, if you must)
  • Speaking of which, if discussing a newer show or movie, please use spoiler tags
  • No pictures that could get someone fired or in serious trouble with their employer
  • If you can’t disagree in a civil manner, feel free to go away
  • While navigating the open thread, just assume it’s sarcasm

With that, the beer light is on and the bar is open. Belly up and tie one on. Don’t forget to tip your waitress, and try the cereal and pancakes.

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Hardly a surprise for the defensive end

Over the past few seasons, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has developed into one of the best all-around defensive linemen in the National Football League. Given his relative youth. . .he still doesn’t turn 25 until November. . .it’s no surprise that he’s on the latest list of the best young players in the league as well.

Pro Football Focus has released their list of the 25 best players in the NFL that will be under age 25 when the 2019 season starts, and Hunter is one of four edge defenders to make the list. Here’s what PFF had to say about him:

Like (Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick) Ngakoue, Danielle Hunter has, in his own right, earned the right to be in the conversation about the league’s best young pass rushers. His 190 pressures since 2016 are tied with Frank Clark for the 11th-most among all edge defenders in that span, while his 8.0 pass-rushing productivity rating ranks 15th among the 90 edge defenders with at least 500 snaps.

Last offseason, Hunter was one of a number of players that the Vikings locked into a long-term contract, signing him to a five-year extension worth $72 million. That gives him the second-highest cap hit on the Minnesota roster for 2019 at $13.5 million, but even that number is going to look more and more like a bargain if Hunter continues on the trajectory he’s on.

The downside. . .I guess, if you can call it that. . .is that Hunter is so young that by the time his current huge contract ends, he’s only going to be 28 years old and, in all likelihood, is going to be looking at another huge contract, whether it’s from the Vikings or someone else. For now, though, the Vikings have one of the best young edge defenders in the NFL to build around, and he probably hasn’t even come close to hitting his peak yet.

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As the Vikings head into their off-season program, I thought I’d start an occasional series over the next couple months on key veterans the Vikings are counting on to help deliver a Super Bowl victory.

I’ll start with the lightning rod himself: Quarterback Kirk Cousins.

All Stats But Nothing Super

Kirk Cousins has completed four seasons as a starter in the NFL. If you’re looking for reasons to like Cousins’ game, just look at his stats: He’s averaged 4,368.5 yards passing/year over those four seasons. He’s completed 67.8% of his passes. He’s averaged 27.8 TDs a season, vs. 11.5 INTs. He also holds a 98.1 passer rating over that period. All of these are very similar to Tom Brady’s (aka the GOAT) career averages.

Except win-loss record. And that’s where the criticism of Kirk Cousins starts.

He’s never been more than an average QB because he’s basically a .500 winning percentage QB. And in four seasons his playoff record is 0-1. And he never wins big games. Or beats good teams. Or makes many clutch plays. He’s dependent on the team around him, rather than carrying the team. He’s a game manager, not a leader.

These criticisms are valid, to the extent he contributed to the results. The same is true of his passing stats.

All of the above was on display last season for the Vikings.

He threw for 4,298 yards, 30 TDs and 10 INTs, 70.1% completions, 99.7 passer rating.

Meanwhile the Super Bowl winning QB last year threw for 4,355 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs, 65.8% completions, and a 97.7 passer rating.

But rather than winning the Super Bowl, the Vikings finished a disappointing 8-7-1, going 1-6 against winning teams. The Dolphins were the only winning team (at the time) they beat.

And then there’s this about the Vikings’ 2018 season:

Washington, at the end of the Kirk Cousins Era, loved Cousins the person and wasn’t entirely sold on Cousins the player. The Vikings, after one year of Cousins as the franchise guy, understand the reticence. His numbers were exquisite—70 percent passing, 4,298 yards, a 30-to-10 TD-to-interception ratio. But the Vikings, as it turned out, needed to win three of their five December games to make the playoffs. They won two. In the three losses, they fell behind New England 10-0, Seattle 21-0 and Chicago 13-0 … and Cousins led three touchdown drives in 32 total possessions in those games. - Peter King, NBC Sports - Football Morning in America

Every year since Cousins has been a starter, despite his passing stats, he’s faced the same criticism and mediocre winning record.

So What Changes?

Cousins will turn 31 before he begins his fifth season as a starter. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator and scheme - his fourth in five seasons. His first two were under Sean McVay, then Matt Cavanaugh, and last season John DeFilippo. This season he’ll be officially under Kevin Stefanski, but running Gary Kubiak’s offense.

So, from a coaching/scheme standpoint, this season begins the same as most of the others for Cousins: learning a new scheme and working with new coaches. Cousins has always played in different flavors of a west coast offense, so what difference will a new one make?

Maybe this year the offensive line is better, so that could make a change. But Cousins has played behind better offensive lines in Washington - with the same results.

He’ll have largely the same players as last year at the skill positions too. And pretty much the same defense.

Looking at it this way, there is little to suggest anything but the same old, same old from Kirk Cousins - and another .500 season.

And yet there are prospects for change.

A Different Approach?

One could argue that with Kevin Stefanski, Cousins is working under yet another unproven offensive coordinator with little to no track record. But the truth is that Cousins will be running Gary Kubiak’s scheme, with largely Gary Kubiak’s staff, and with Gary Kubiak advising both Kevin Stefanski and Mike Zimmer on all things offense. And Gary Kubiak and his scheme does have a track record- and a successful one at that.

One of the features of Kubiak’s brand of west coast offense is a greater emphasis on the run. As an offensive coordinator he’s almost always been in the top 10 in both rushing attempts and yards. The 2017 Vikings were also top 10 in both rushing attempts and yards.

Kirk Cousins has never played in an offense with a running game like that.

Not even close.

RUNNING GAME

During those past four seasons, the running game part of Cousins’ offense has never been good, and has gotten steadily worse. It’s gone from ranked 20th in yards in 2015, to 21st, then 27th, and finally 30th last year in Minnesota. Rushing attempts and run/pass play percentage has gone back and forth- but never very high - while rushing yards have gone from bad to worse.

But with Mike Zimmer making it clear he wants to run the ball more, and Gary Kubiak having a well established commitment to running the ball, I expect the Vikings will run the ball more, come hell or highwater. In particular, I expect the Vikings to run the ball about 45% of the time this season, compared to about 35.5% last season. This would be more in-line with the 2017 Vikings season - and Kubiak’s average as a head coach or offensive coordinator.

PLAY ACTION

The other mainstay of Kubiak’s offense has been the play-action pass.

Kirk Cousins has been the best play-action passer in the NFL over the past four years. His

passer rating on play-action passes, beginning in 2015, has ranked 1st, 11th, 2nd, and 4th over the past four seasons among QBs with at least 100 play-action attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. His play-action passer rating has averaged about 116 over that span, vs. 98.1 overall.

And yet every year, he’s well down the list in the percentage of play-action passes run. In 2015 he ranked 18th, 15th in 2016 and 2017, and 20th last year.

That is likely to change this season as Gary Kubiak favors play-action, and so have the Vikings for most of Kevin Stefanski’s tenure on the offensive staff. Starting in 2012, the Vikings have ranked 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 3rd, 9th and 2nd in percentage of play-action passes, beginning with Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator, to Norv Turner, and ending with Pat Shurmur. That percentage dropped to 20th under John DeFilippo last season.

Given all of the above, I would not be surprised to see play-action passes account for somewhere close to 30% of a passing plays - vs. 20.8% last season.

Last season Cousins’ passer rating was 116.1 in play-action vs. 95.2 without it. Yards per attempt (YPA) was nearly 2 yards more in play-action (8.6 vs. 6.7), and his completion percentage was 77.1% vs. 68.2 without it. Given those differentials, it stands to reason that if play-action passing increases, so too will Cousins’ passing efficiency.

MORE UNDER-CENTER PASSING

Similarly, Cousins’ career passer rating under center is 109.1 vs. 90.1 in shotgun- a relatively large differential. And yet last season, 78% of Cousins’ passing attempts were from the shotgun formation. Last year his passer rating under-center was 114.6 vs. 95.5 in shotgun.

Gary Kubiak has preferred his QB to be under-center, but strayed from that with Payton Manning- who preferred shotgun- while head coach in Denver. Other than that, Kubiak’s QBs have operated mostly under-center. Matt Schaub, who played most of his career under Kubiak, was under-center about two-thirds of his passing attempts. Brian Griese, John Elway, and Joe Flacco were all primarily under-center passers under Kubiak as well. For Flacco, it was a severe change - going from 15% to 62% under-center after Kubiak took over as offensive coordinator in 2014. Flacco’s passer rating jumped from 73 to 91 that year - his highest to-date since 2010.

Given all that, I would also expect the percentage of Cousins’ pass attempts from under-center to double from previous years. In the past, Cousins’ has averaged only about 27% of passes from under-center. Again, looking at passer rating differentials between shotgun and under-center, you would expect a significant increase in under-center passing to have a positive effect on Cousins’ passer rating.

Football Is A Team Game

All that may be well and good - and may help Cousins’ stats - but the question remains: can Cousins win more games - big games, prime time games, road games ?

The answer is both long and simple.

In the past Cousins has been the focal point and lightning rod. He’s been expected to carry his team - because his team has never had a good running game - and only last season a good defense. So, when the chips are down, and the lights are brightest, all eyes point to Cousins.

And when the QB is expected to carry the team, without a good running game or defense,

the results are somewhat predictable. Not only with Cousins, but with other top QBs as well:

  • Cousins is 32-30-2 since becoming a starter in 2015, with a 98.1 passer rating.
  • Aaron Rodgers, with the all-time highest career passer rating, but who has suffered from the same problem in Green Bay in recent years, is only 30-24-1 since 2015, with a 98.2 passer rating.
  • Another future first ballot Hall of Fame QB - Drew Brees - suffered the same problem from 2014-2016. He went 21-26 over that span, despite a 99.9 passer rating and averaging over 5,000 passing yards a year.
  • Russell Wilson went 9-7 in his only season (2017) without a top 10 defense and/or running game in Seattle.
  • Other QBs with top 10 all-time passer ratings haven’t done well either when asked to carry the team. Philip Rivers, who had a good defense for a few seasons, went 60-68 between 2010-2017, with a 94.4 passer rating. Tony Romo went 24-23 between 2011-2013, despite a 96.1 passer rating over that stretch.

All of these QBs, Cousins included, are top 10 career passer-rating QBs all-time, among QBs with at least 1,500 passing attempts.

By contrast, the GOAT - Tom Brady - with the 4th best 97.6 career passer rating - has had only 3 seasons in his 17 playing years without a top 10 defense, and only 5 without a top 10 running game. 13 times the Patriots made it to at least the AFC Championship during that span, 9 times to the Super Bowl, and six times world champions.

In the 17 consecutive years Joe Montana and Steve Young started at QB for the 49ers (not including the strike-shortened season) they had at least a top 8 or better defense every season but one. And only 5 years did they not have a top 10 running game. 10 times the 49ers made it to at least the NFC Championship, and 5 times they won the Super Bowl.

Football is a team game.

So, can Cousins break out of his mediocre winning ways? Sure he can. Just give him the defense and running game that Brady, Montana and Young had most of their careers.

Getting Back to 2017

The last time the Vikings put together a top 10 defense and top 10 running game - in 2017 - they went 14-4 and made it to the NFC Championship with a backup QB that hadn’t done much before or since. Case Keenum won against winning teams, in the post-season, on the road, and in prime time. His previous career passer rating of 78.4 jumped to 98.3.

But in 6 of those 18 games (33%) they had 100 or fewer rushing yards - including both post-season games. They lost 4 of those games, and nearly 5 if not for the Minneapolis Miracle. Case Keenum’s average passer rating in those games was 76.0.

Last season, while still having a top 10 defense, the Vikings had 100 or fewer rushing yards in 12 of their 16 games (75%). They went 4-7-1 in those games. Cousins’ average passer rating in those games was 101.3.

For comparison, Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Patriots had 7 games with 100 or fewer rushing yards last season - none in the post-season. They went 2-5 in those games. Brady’s average passer rating in those games was 90.4.

The Patriots defense was ranked 7th in points allowed last season, the Vikings’ 9th.

Since Gary Kubiak has been either an offensive coordinator or head coach- running his scheme- there have been 11 seasons where he’s had a top 10 defense in points allowed. Only one of those seasons did he not have at least 10 wins.

The Vikings have had a top 10 defense in points allowed the past four years running.

As an offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak has had 100 or fewer rushing yards in 57 of 208 games, or 27.4%. That’s a little over 4 in a 16 game regular season. If that rate were to continue next year, along with the Vikings win rate in both 101+ and under-100 yard rushing games, the Vikings - and Kirk Cousins- would go 13-3.

Signs of Improvement

Beyond the question of supporting cast - run game in particular - there is also the question of how Cousins performs in key situations.

Last year showed some signs of improvement in a couple key areas.

UNDER PRESSURE

First, Cousins has been improving when under pressure. Last year he had his best passer rating (83.1) and ranking (7th), among QBs under pressure with at least 400 pass attempts. That’s nearly a 20 point increase in passer rating under pressure over 2017.

RED ZONE

The other area of improvement has been in the red zone. Cousins had struggled in the red zone the previous two seasons, with an 83.3 and 83.8 passer rating. Last year Cousins improved to 114.7 - a 30 point improvement and career high.

THIRD DOWN

He also improved on 3rd down, going from a 86.5 to 92.6 passer rating, although he did better in this area in 2015 and 2016 - with a 100.9 and 97.0 passer rating respectively. A better offensive line in those years likely had an impact.

ACCURACY

Kirk Cousins has always been an accurate passer, but this past season he improved in this area as well, improving his adjusted completion percentage (completions + drops) / (attempts - throw aways, batted passes, spikes, hit while throwing) to 79.5%. That was 2nd best in the league last season.

His 70.1% completion rate was also a career high, and also 2nd best in the league.

BIG GAME PERFORMANCE

The other area worth mentioning is how he fared against good teams, on the road, in prime time. Here are Cousins’ seven best games last season:

Week 2: On the road against the Packers. 118.8 passer rating.

Week 4: On the road against the Rams. Prime time. 117.2 passer rating.

Week 5: On the road against the Eagles. 109.6 passer rating.

Week 8: At home against the Saints. Prime time. 107.7 passer rating.

Week 11: At home against the Packers. Prime time. 129.5 passer rating.

Week 12: At home against the Dolphins. 112.2 passer rating.

Week 15: On the road against the Lions. 137.9 passer rating.

Every one of those games was either on the road, in prime time, and/or against a team with a winning record. The Vikings went 4-2-1 in those games. Generally, if a QB’s passer rating is north of 100 in a game, he’s doing his job.

On the other hand, Cousins’ worst five games were:

Week 12: On the road against the Patriots. 70.4 passer rating.

Week 10: On the road against the Bears. 76.5 passer rating.

Week 17: At home against the Bears. 79.4 passer rating.

Week 3: At home against Buffalo. 83.4 passer rating.

Week 6: At home against Arizona. 87.0 passer rating.

1-4 record. 3 home games, 2 road games, one in prime time. 3 against playoff/winning record teams. In the four losses, the Vikings averaged 12 rushing attempts for 48.5 yards.

LATE GAME PERFORMANCE

Career-to-date, Cousins’ average passer rating has declined as the game goes on. 105.7 in the first quarter, 95.5 in the 2nd, 93.1 in the 3rd, 89.1 in the 4th, and 71.4 in OT.

But last year his 4th quarter performance jumped to 100.4, and his OT performance to 106.0. Those passer ratings are behind only his 1st quarter passer rating, which was 112.1 last season.

Similarly, Cousins’ career-to-date passer rating when trailing late in a game (less than 2 and 4 minutes to go), has been poor - averaging only 76.9 in those situations.

But last year his average passer rating in those situations spiked to 108.6 - a 40% increase going from bad to excellent.

Bottom Line

There is nothing that suggests Cousins, with the aid of a top 10 defense and running game, can’t substantially improve his winning percentage in any type of game, or win a Super Bowl.

His career passer rating currently ranks 9th all-time.

Looking at the other top 10 QBs in all-time passer rating - Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Dree Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan - all but one has struggled with mediocre winning percentages any time they did not have a top 10 defense and/or running game. The only exception has been Peyton Manning, who is the only player in NFL history to win the NFL MVP award five times.

The main difference between Cousins and the QBs on that top 10 list that have won a Super Bowl is that they’ve had a top 10 defense and running game to work with, while Cousins never has.

The media tends to lionize those QBs with multiple Super Bowl victories, hailing them as heroes for carrying their team to victory, but the truth is that is seldom the case. The reality behind sustained success - as the Patriots have enjoyed in the 21st century, the 49ers in the 80s and 90s, and the Vikings and Steelers in the 70s, is a combination of top 10 defense, running game, and a good quarterback. If all you have is the latter, history shows you’re unlikely to be a Super Bowl contender.

For the Vikings, the reason for the decline between 2017 and 2018 wasn’t Kirk Cousins, who outperformed 2017 Case Keenum by most key metrics. The small decline in the defense contributed to the disappointing season, but it was the running game dropping from 7th to 30th in league rankings that had the biggest impact. 2018 saw the number of sub-101 yard rushing games spike to 75% from 33% in 2017. And given the Vikings haven’t lost a game in three seasons when they’ve rushed for over 100 yards, but win only about a third of the games when they rush for less than that, that spike in poor rushing games was the difference.

For Cousins, he improved in several aspects of his game last season, including key areas where he had been weak in the past - under pressure, red zone and late game performance.

That, combined with a renewed commitment to improving the run and Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme, are reasons to be optimistic about Cousins and the coming season.

Poll

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GMG interviews the Locked On Vikings host, Mr. Luke Braun about your beloved #Vikings, cap moves, O-line, 2 TE sets & upcoming OTA’s & camp.

Good morning Horners! Have you ever had one of those days that just didn’t go the way you would plan? Well, in episode 51, that’s exactly what happened. It started off with a host of Locked On Vikings, Mr. Luke Braun getting together with us to discuss possible ways the Minnesota Vikings could make some cap room to sign their number one pick, Garrett Bradbury. That’s when things started to go awry.

Good Morning Gjallahorn episode 051 - Locked On with Luke Braun - YouTube

Just prior to recording, Vikings nation received the word that Bradbury had indeed signed, the next question that came out is, “where did they get the money?” As discussed, it turns out that Eric Kendricks had to “take one for the team” and was given half his salary in the form of the signing bonus, spreading out the rest over the remaining years of his contract. Well, this is good news, because everybody was suspecting that Kyle Rudolph would have to be traded or cut to make the space. There’d been plenty of written speculation leading to that. That won’t have to be the case now, and as we heard later in the week, the Vikings have even offered him a substantial extension the Rudolph camp has yet to accept.

With that news, everything was going well leading into the broadcast, but I did say things didn’t go the way you planned. For some reason, between using Hangouts and YouTube, our guest, Luke Braun’s image did not record. We got the typical generic blue person icon. The grumpy old men recorded just fine, so there’s plenty to watch and enjoy, along with the audio-only commentary from Luke himself [as if he was a caller]. It was an extremely enlightening show where all things Vikings were discussed, not only including the 2019 draft class, in-depth player backstories leading into training camp, the Gary Kubiak / Kevin Stefanski offense that should utilize plenty of two tight end sets featuring Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph, the starting O-line, and the miracles created by Rob Brzezinski to get players signed and keep the Minnesota Vikings under the salary cap.

Like, subscribe, and ring that damn bell! Then shout SKOL!

As always, enjoy the watch!

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It’s the weekend, time to smoke some meat and drink beer!

Good Morning!

It’s the weekend, time to catch on the smoker, drink beer and work off that honey do list.....or work like I am. Hope your weekend is off to a great start, I conned one of my kids into smoking a brisket on Saturday so I’d have some lunch/dinner at work on Sunday. Speaking of which, your final Game of Thrones fanpost thread will post Monday, it may be delayed but will get posted. Obviously I’m working this weekend, what are your plans? I was writing this last night at close to midnight and could think of a poll, drop your suggestion into the comments and I’ll take a look at it when I get up. Meanwhile we’ll catch up on our NFC North opponents and then carry on with our news and links thread full of beer recommendations, nap strategies, crock pot and smoker recipes. Drop by for some fan wisdom, snark and have another beer, it’s the weekend!

Around the DN since our last open thread:

From Chris, the Vikings have, reportedly, made Kyle Rudolph a contract extension offer.

Lucas reports former Vikings WR Aldrick Robinson signs 1-year deal with Carolina.

Vikings news from other sources:

From Vikings.com rookie TE Irv Smith Jr. joins “NFL Total Access” and discusses wearing Randy Moss’ jersey number, his role as a rookie and relationship with TE Kyle Rudolph.

NFL Network’s David Carr explains how Gary Kubiak’s scheme will change quarterback Kirk Cousins’ game.

From Drew Magary, author of “Why Your Team Sucks” The Night The Lights Went Out, (full disclosure, theartistformerlyknownasfil posted this in the comments the other day which is where I first saw it)

NFC North Roundup:

At Pride of Detroit Who are the Detroit Lions trying to be?

Next Man Up: Is the Detroit Lions’ WR depth sufficient enough?

Which 2017 Lions draft pick is most likely to take the Year 3 jump?

Detroit Lions hoping to mend relationship with Calvin Johnson this year.

At Windy City Gridiron Bears sign Northwestern offensive lineman Tommy Doles.

David Montgomery ended up with the perfect team.

From Mongo to Mack: A historical look at Bears’ quarterback sacks.

Windy City Gridiron is hiring a social media contributor.
(I put this here as we do have some Bears fans in our open threads)

Over at Acme Packing Company Examining adjusted games lost can help explain the NFC North in 2018.

2019 Packers 90-man roster ranking, 75-71: Sam Ficken provides competition for Mason Crosby.

Cheese Curds, 5/16: Can Josh Jones still contribute for the Packers?

2019 NFL Calendar: Dates and deadlines for free agency & offseason workouts.

League news:

Consistent with the weekend news and links I’ll post league news in the comments

We come to today’s media selection: Guardians of the Galaxy:
Awesome Mix Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Full Soundtrack)

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Full Soundtrack) - YouTube

Again, we all know the rules, but in case someone is new:
-No discussion of politics or religion
-No feeding of the trolls
-This isn’t a male version of The View, so leave the gender hatred at the door
-Keep the bad language to a minimum (using the spoiler tags, if you must)
-Speaking of which, if discussing a newer show or movie, please use spoiler tags
-No pictures that could get someone fired or in serious trouble with their employer
-If you can’t disagree in a civil manner, feel free to go away
-While navigating the open thread, just assume it’s sarcasm.
With that, the beer light is on and the bar is open. Belly up & tie one on. Don’t forget to tip your waiter, try the Chai Tea and Welcome Aboard.

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And it sounds a little crazy to me

Welcome back to The Daily Rudolph, where we’re tracking all of the latest developments between the Minnesota Vikings and their starting tight end as they try to work out some sort of a deal.

Today, news has come down from the folks at Pro Football Talk that, while not much process is being made, the Vikings have made an extension offer to Kyle Rudolph. And, if what they’re saying is accurate. . .well, it’s a little strange.

Here’s what PFT’s report says:

The Vikings, according to the source, have offered Rudolph a five-year extension, which would give Rudolph a new-money average among the highest paid tight ends in the league. That extension also would, presumably, reduce Rudolph’s current cap number of $7.625 million.

The source adds that the Vikings have not asked Rudolph to take a pay cut in 2018, the final year of his current deal.

As it stands now, Rudolph’s $7.625 million cap hit is the fifth-highest at the position in the NFL, according to Over the Cap. If this (hypothetical) extension would keep him “among the highest paid tight ends in the league,” let’s take a look at what sort of numbers that could mean.

Per the numbers from Over the Cap, the average cap hit for the five highest-paid tight ends in the NFL will be $11,293,313 for the 2020 season and $9.430,966 for 2021. For a guy that would be in his mid-30s before a five-year contract extension expired, that seems like a lot. Unless Rudolph is going to be the second coming of Jason Witten or something, that kind of salary feels a little excessive.

I can’t see the Vikings offering Rudolph that long an extension with those sorts of numbers attached. If they had, I’d find it difficult to believe that Rudolph wouldn’t have signed it by now if there was more guaranteed money attached.

The next round of OTAs get underway in Eagan on Tuesday. Will the two sides come to some sort of an agreement before then?

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Robinson is taking his ‘Deep Threat’ talents to the East Coast.

The former Minnesota Vikings receiver Aldrick Robinson is headed to Carolina on a one-year deal. Carolina will be Robinson’s sixth team in seven seasons. The journeyman is known as a a deep threat, and that’s the recognition he wants to continue with the Panthers.

Welcome to Carolina @AldrickRobinson! pic.twitter.com/b2PZHJQKg6

— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) May 17, 2019

The 30-year old will add veteran depth to the Panthers’ already seasoned receiving core. Along with Robinson will be 29-year old Torrey Smith, 33-year old tight end Greg Olsen, 31-year old, newly acquired Chris Hogan and 30-year old, former Viking Jarius Wright.

Despite a seasoned core, Carolina also had five players under the age of 25 who caught 281 passes for 3,031 yards and 19 touchdowns. The total amount of receiving yards was 4,071 and 28 touchdowns from 15 active receivers last season.

Robinson was targeted 35 times and caught 17 receptions for 231 yards and five touchdowns. He had a 48.6 catch percentage, but it’s hard to take that into consideration because he’s known as the deep ball guy. If no other receivers are open, the quarterback’s just going to toss it out of bounds and Robinson’s typically the one in the vicinity.

Right on the money.@KirkCousins8 hits @AldrickRobinson for the dagger. pic.twitter.com/BLmnYo0uGk

— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 16, 2018

He’s caught 86 passes for 1,422 yards and reeled in 14 touchdowns throughout his career. Robinson’s longest catch was during his rookie year in 2012 with the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III tossed him about a 60-yard pass and Robinson took it to the house for a 68-yard touchdown.

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