June 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.
The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff underwent a serious off-season overhaul. These changes should be the spark quarterback Kirk Cousins needs to take his game to the next level. After several unsuccessful seasons, the Vikings made major personnel changes. Almost every coaching position has a new name attached to it, including an HC, OC, and DC.
New faces bring updated philosophies
The former head coach, mike zimmer, has been described as “old school”. Zimmer wasn’t just the HC, he was basically the DC. The Vikings defense showed some improvements during his tenure but it didn’t stick and in 2021 they had one of the worst running defenses in the NFL. Defense ranked 30th overall and down for many major defensive categories. His continued, albeit ineffective, focus on the defense may have allowed the attack to slip.
If it were true that “the defense wins the championship”, that is no longer enough. Coach O’Connell and new OC Wes Phillips worked together before coming to the Vikings. They were both part of Los Angles’ formidable offense with the Rams. Hopefully that leads to a much better Minnesota offense.
Same players, new playbook
While the coaching staff may be almost entirely different, the players are not. Kirk Cousins along with the other attacking stars – Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen – are all returning.
The system used by O’Connell in Los Angeles is more in tune with Kirk Cousins’ style of play. Cousins showed he has the talent and intelligence to be great. Last year he”had a passer rating of 133.8 on throws over 10 air yards.” He was the best of any QB in the NFL since 2016. 2021 has been a solid season for receivers and guards:
Wide star Justin Jefferson gained 1,255 yards on targets over 10 yards in the air and 823 yards on targets 10 to 19 yards in the air — both were, you guessed it, NGS single-season records. Adam Thielen has a catch rate of over 25.7 over expectations in the red zone since 2018, which tops the NFL. Dalvin Cook averaged 5.0 yards per carry on inside tackle attempts last season.
Cousins has proven to be a reliable leader who doesn’t take unreasonable odds. While Cousins may not be as young as he once was, he has shown he has the knack to take this team to the playoffs with proper play. Training camp is about to start in a few weeks and everyone will be watching eagerly to see the changes from the new coaches. It appears to be exactly what Kirk Cousins needed to take this offense to the next level.