Who needs to step up for the Minnesota Vikings to clinch a victory in Week 4?
The Minnesota Vikings fell to 0-3 after failing to take care of the undefeated Tennessee Titans last Sunday, and everyone is wondering, what does the team have to do to get that first win?
Earning wins in the NFL isn’t easy, as we saw last week. The Vikings lost by one point in the closing second of the fourth quarter on the leg of Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Kirk Cousins and the offense had enough time march down the field and get into scoring position, but the offensive line simply imploded and the game ended with Minnesota on the losing end of a 31-30 final score.
Which Minnesota Vikings need to step against the Houston Texans?
The easy answer, as it was last week, is that everyone on the Vikings roster needs to step up this week to beat Deshaun Watson and the Texans. While that’s true for every game in the NFL, if you look back to last week, there were quite a few improvements that we didn’t see in the first two games from Minnesota.
Much of this has to do with a shortened offseason and not getting a chance to become familiar with one another before the start of the regular season. But you get the feeling that this team is close to breaking out and becoming that team every Vikings fan has hoped for in 2020.
So which Minnesota players need to step up their performance when the team takes on Houston this weekend?
Minnesota’s interior offensive line
To put this as lightly as possible, the Vikings interior offensive line played horrendous last week. Among 77 guards, Pro Football Focus graded Dakota Dozier as the 65th-best guard and Dru Samia as the 77th-best guard. Out of 34 centers, Garrett Bradbury graded out as the 25th.
Bradbury and Samia were both selected in the 2019 NFL Draft (Bradbury in the first round and Samia in the fourth). Bradbury started as a rookie last year while Samia did not. Needless to say, neither one of them has stepped up this season in the way Minnesota had hoped for when they spent draft capital on them.
Dozier came over during free agency last year and he didn’t play too poorly, but this season is a different story. This group needs to get going this week if they want to create running lanes for Dalvin Cook and protect Kirk Cousins from interior pressure. The Texans defensive line is excellent, with veteran All-Pro J.J. Watt being the primary focus.
Cousins continues to struggle to take care of the football this season. He added two more interceptions to his total last week, tying him for the most picks in the league with six. That ties his entire total for 2019 and we aren’t even a month into this season yet.
Cousins did play a bit better against the Titans last week after coming off of an abysmal performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2. He threw for three touchdowns as well as 251-yards and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes during Minnesota’s loss to Tennessee.
Cousins is going to need to show off those wheels he displayed in Week 1. There’s a good chance the Texans defense is going to be able to get a lot of pressure on Sunday, so the Vikings quarterback is going to have to be able to create plays with his legs.
Usually, you wouldn’t ask a rookie, who has played well in his minimal time in the league, to step up and make an impact early on, but Gladney needs to be the alpha-dog on the Minnesota defense this week. He’s shown he can play against NFL wide receivers, but he needs to bring his game to the next level on Sunday.
Gladney has been the lone bright spot among the Vikings cornerbacks his year. This position group has struggled a lot for Minnesota this season, but Gladney seems to be finding his stride. He’ll be tasked with keeping Watson and this passing game in check, which won’t be easy.
The Texans have their big offensive weapon in receiver Will Fuller that Gladney and the rest of the Vikings secondary will have to deal with. It should be interesting to see what impact Minnesota’s rookie corner will make this week.