What we know about Kirk Cousins after year one with the Vikings

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

Like many at his position, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has his unique quirks, things he excels at, and some things he doesn’t quite excel at so much.

All NFL quarterbacks have things they do well and other things not so well. With many of these guys, you take the good with the bad and hope that the positive outshines the negative, especially in crunch time.

Many past Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks have had their share of issues. Daunte Culpepper’s small hands that led to fumbling and Brett Favre’s gunslinger mentality which led to many interceptions are among some of the problems that the Vikings have dealt with over the years.

Before the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins, I didn’t know that much about his game. All I really knew was that he had a decent arm, he was pretty accurate with the football, and he could put up big numbers in the passing game.

After watching Cousins play for a year in purple, I learned much more and compiled that knowledge into a list.

  • He can produce with little to no protection

This guy was under constant duress all season long.  Cousins had a terrible offensive line in front of him, especially on the interior. He had to scramble for his life many times and took some huge hits week after week.

It’s really surprising that Cousins didn’t get hurt and miss some games in 2018. That being said, he still managed to throw for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, only 10 interceptions, and he had a 99.7 QB rating.

Cousins finished with the 10th-most passing yards in the NFL and he had the 10th-highest QB rating.  Just imagine what he could’ve done if he was given time to actually scan the field and go through his progressions.

  • He can put up numbers with no running game

Cousins had a very good year throwing the football in 2018.  As stated above, he threw for nearly 4,300 yards with 30 touchdowns. Cousins did all of this with little to no running game most of the season.

Minnesota’s rushing attack ranked 30th in the league in 2018. The only quarterback to throw for more yards than Cousins with such a poor running game last season was Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cousins numbers are even more impressive when it’s factored in that teams knew the Vikings would be throwing the ball often and were game-planning for it.

  • He is a great motivator

Man, can this guy give a pregame speech. Before just about every game in 2018, Minnesota would get in their pregame huddle and we could hear what Cousins would say to get the boys fired up.

He is an intense speaker who knows exactly what buttons to press to get everyone ready to play. I know I could use a few of his speeches before a workout or two.

  • He has a poor internal clock

Cousins seems to have a very poor internal clock. Many times last season he would hold onto the ball for far too long and it would result in him either taking a big hit or scrambling away in the nick of time, barely saving his life.

It’s really odd because of all the pressure Cousins faced in 2018, one would think he’d have figured out how much time he has to get rid of the football or at least be able to hear the 280-pound lineman or linebacker closing in on him.

This is an issue that never seemed to improve last season, so maybe that’s just part of who he is.

  • He is extremely slow

Cousins is not going to win any foot races. Watching him scramble is pretty brutal. It’s not so bad when he rolls out to avoid pressure. But when he scrambles down the field trying to pick up yards, it’s almost as if he’s running through a swamp.

The Vikings’ opponents in 2019 should feel pretty safe assuming that there won’t be any quarterback draws called by Minnesota as Cousins just doesn’t have the speed to pull them off.

  • He gets passes batted down

The Vikings starting signal-caller had a ton of passes batted down last season. Against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6 alone, he had five.

That’s a crazy number. It’s not like he’s short. Cousins is 6-foot-3, so his height shouldn’t be an issue. There is some talk that he has a tell that he pats the ball before he throws and teams were keying in on that.

Whatever the case may be, the fact is if you are at a bar and are taking a shot per batted ball during a Minnesota game where Cousins is under center, you’ll likely be passed out by the start of the third quarter.

  • He doesn’t shine under the bright lights

Including the game of the week on Sunday afternoons, the Vikings had seven matchups that were in “Prime Time” in 2018. Minnesota won just one of these contests.

Overall in these games, Cousins wasn’t terrible as he ended up with an average QB rating of 95.7.  But in some of these matchups, he did play quite poorly.

During a Monday night showdown against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14, he threw for just 208 yards and a garbage-time touchdown. And when the season was on the line against the Chicago Bears in Week 17, Cousins had one of his worst performances of the season, completing just over 60 percent of his passes for 132 yards and one touchdown.

Obviously, this isn’t all on Cousins. But the Vikings would like to see their quarterback rise to the occasion when the stakes are the highest, the lights are the brightest, and have performances that can carry and inspire his team to a win.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

  • Overall impression

Minnesota spent $84 million on Cousins to be their quarterback for three seasons. What did the Vikings get with that money? They got a guy who can put up big numbers behind a sub-par offensive line and no running game whatsoever.

Minnesota also got a master motivator who tends to get balls batted down and doesn’t always sense pressure when it’s breathing down his neck.  It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad either.

With an improved offensive line in front of him and a better running game, there is no doubt in my mind that Cousins is the guy who can lead the Vikings to that elusive first-ever Super Bowl victory.

Next. 5 breakout Vikings from the 2018 season. dark

(For more NFL Draft and Vikings-related content from Nik Edlund, head on over to SkolHole.com and check out his work.)