If the Minnesota Vikings need to get the most out of Kirk Cousins during the 2020 NFL season, they will need to figure out a way to provide a clean pocket.
Some NFL quarterbacks thrive under pressure. Many teams today have signal callers who can make defenders miss or deliver the ball with ice water in their veins. Sadly, Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings isn’t one of those individuals.
It’s not that Cousins isn’t a good quarterback. For the 2019 season, he finished fourth in quarterback rating (107.4), fifth in completion percentage (69.1), and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 26-to-6. However, most of the time fans saw the best versions of Cousins was when the team was able to provide him with time to throw the football.
Pro Football Focus made the difference between Kirk in a clean pocket and when he was under pressure alarmingly clear. When Cousins had a clean pocket, he was the league’s fourth-best quarterback. But when he was under duress, the quarterback dropped to 23rd among his peers.
Cousins shined in deep passes, where he connected star pass catchers Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph at a very high rate…but he could only try those passes when he had the protection to allow the plays to develop.
With those great weapons and playing at a high level, the Minnesota Vikings would be doing a severe disservice if they didn’t do something to provide more stability in their pass protection, and that all starts with the offensive line.
Expect the Vikings to work close with Garrett Bradbury, who struggled through his rookie campaign at center but still shows enough potential to move forward with. Josh Kline and Brian O’Neill should return to hold down the right side of the line as they have earned those spots.
Meanwhile, the left side of the line isn’t as pretty. Riley Reiff looked solid at times but had games where he wasn’t very effective. Plus, the experiment of moving Pat Elflein to left guard has not been a success whatsoever and needs to be re-evaluated this offseason.
If Minnesota does not address the left side of the offensive line by at least bringing in top-level talent to compete with Elflein and/or Reiff, drafting more offensive weapons would be a waste of talent.
This is a quarterback-centric league and the Minnesota Vikings have proven they can win big games with Kirk Cousins at the helm. However, they also need to give him the resources necessary to get the job done consistently and against a strong pass rush. This offseason will be telling as to how high of a priority the offense is to the team’s front office.