Kirk Cousins, whether you love him or hate him, is poised to start his fifth season for the Vikings. Cousins has been ultra-consistent with his numbers but has struggled to have much team success. The 2021 Vikings saw 35.5 pass attempts per game, good for 11th in the NFL. Many players have said that the offense will be more pass-oriented, which should hopefully bode well for Cousins.
Consistency with an offensive scheme will be a great benefit to Cousins. The last time Cousins had the same coordinator for two straight full seasons was when he was with McVay in Washington. Cousins has had four offensive coordinators since he signed with the Vikings in 2018. Kirk Cousins will undoubtedly have a scheme geared towards his strengths and masking his weaknesses, but will it be enough to propel the Vikings to the playoffs and beyond?
QB2: Who will it be?
Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion round out the quarterback room for the 2022 Minnesota Vikings. Mannion saw late-season playing time due to Cousins contracting Covid-19. Mannion delivered an underwhelming performance in a Green Bay Packers blowout.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell has recently said that Kellen Mond has had a great spring. “Yeah, Kellen’s having a good spring so far, working incredibly hard, digesting the system,” O’Connell told media members on Wednesday. “He made a couple of checks yesterday at the line of scrimmage that he wasn’t prepared play-by-play for, like, ‘Hey, make sure on play 12 you’re ready to do this.’ He just kind of instinctively did that. Those are the little things you look for obviously.”
Expectations are not high for Mond going into 2022. Coach Mike Zimmer did not turn to Mond in a meaningless game against the Packers in week 17 and instead gave Mannion an opportunity to start.
Expect Mond to get the majority of preseason snaps to determine if he is capable of taking over the QB2 spot.
Last year for Cook or Mattison?
Dalvin Cook will lead the backfield again for the 2022 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are likely to move to a more passing-oriented offense this season further removing themselves from the Zimmer run-first scheme. Alexander Mattison will continue to fill in as an admirable backup to Cook. Mattison is entering the last year of his rookie contract and will garner interest from the league based on his success when given opportunities. With the Vikings paying Cook, look for them to move on from one of the backs after the season.
Cook was used in various wide receiver sets during the Vikings’ Organized Team Activities practices. Expect Cook to garner some more passing usage and possibly be on the field at the same time with Alexander Mattison.
Wild card Kene Nwangwu should have an opportunity to highlight his talents in a new offense as well. Nwangwu burst on the scene in 2021 with a major impact on special teams, taking two kick returns for touchdowns. Nwangwu also averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry in limited opportunities. Look for him to be involved in certain packages and solidify himself as a solid upside backup going into next season.
Ty Chandler was selected by the Vikings in the 5th round of the 2022 NFL Draft. After a great career at the University of North Carolina, Chandler slipped in the draft and the Vikings had a chance to get a massive bargain. While Chandler looks to have a chance to play a role in the offense eventually, 2022 does not seem like the year due to the depth at the position.
Sky is the limit for Jefferson
Entering his third season, Justin Jefferson has a chance to dominate, even more, in a new offense. Jefferson is coming off a season where he had 108 catches for 1616 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cooper Kupp is coming off one of the most dominant seasons by a wide receiver in the history of the NFL. Jefferson could see similar targets and statistics by the end of the year in a similar offensive scheme.
The elder statesman Adam Thielen is coming off major ankle surgery in his year 32 season. Thielen is coming off his lowest output season since 2016 and has missed multiple games in the past three seasons. Thielen, to his credit, still found the endzone 10 times in 13 games but is nearing the end of his NFL career. Expect Thielen to continue to put up solid red-zone production, but may struggle to retain high yardage numbers.
K.J. Osborn had a fantastic growth year in 2021. He filled in for an injured Thielen and had some huge highlight plays for the Vikings. Osborn is in line for more playing time but snaps may be muddled due to the return of Irv Smith Jr. and the utilization of some players in non-traditional roles.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette showed some big-play potential but may not have enough opportunity for snaps until Thielen moves on.
Return of Irv
The tight end position starts and ends with Irv Smith Jr. A meniscus injury derailed a potentially promising third season for Smith Jr. The 2022 season outlook for Smith Jr. is bright.
At only 24 years old Smith Jr. has a chance to become an integral part of the new look, pass first, Vikings offense. The 2022 Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is set but expect Smith Jr. to line up in the slot and off the line to exploit mismatches in defenses.
Lost in free agency was Tyler Conklin. Conklin filled in admirably for Smith Jr. last season and signed with the Jets.
The Vikings depth behind Smith Jr. is non-existent. Ben Ellefson and Johnny Mundt were acquired via free agency. Zach Davidson is the only roster holdover from last year. The Vikings selected Nick Muse out of South Carolina in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Expect the Vikings to run three-wide receiver sets, much like the Rams, in 2022, which will keep most of the tight ends besides Irv Smith Jr. with limited snaps or on the practice squad.
Improvements on the way?
The Minnesota Vikings under Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were always known for their lackluster offensive line play. Entering the 2022 season with a new head coach and scheme the Vikings look to improve their PFF 23rd-ranked offensive line.
The Vikings likely return four starters in Christian Darrisaw at left tackle, Ezra Cleveland at left guard, Garrett Bradbury at center, and rock-solid Brian O’Neill at right tackle. Darrisaw has a chance to cement himself as a solid left tackle in the NFL after a season marred by an early injury. Garrett Bradbury is in the final year of his rookie contract as the new staff did not sign him to his fifth-year option.
While the Vikings have four starters likely returning, their right guard spot remains a point of contention. Oli Udoh is coming off a 54.4 PFF grade with 16 penalties at the position in 2021 and seems to be a one-and-done at the position.
The Vikings brought in Jesse Davis via free agency. Ed Ingram may need a year to get up to NFL speed. Wyatt Davis, a top offensive line prospect in 2021, looks to be buried on the depth chart. Expect some competition during training camp and the pre-season with Jesse Davis ultimately winning the position, at least early on.
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