Kirk Cousins Can Get Better in 2022
If you clicked on this article, it’s for one of three reasons. You might be a Kirk Cousins fan that is looking for some fuel to add on to the ‘Captain Kirk’ fire. Maybe you’re a Cousins hater that anger-clicked to see what this delusional madman is going to say in defense of the Minnesota Vikings QB. Or perhaps you fat-thumbed it and decided to stick around. Shoutout to you if you’re one of those people.
That’s the type of player Kirk Cousins is, though. People are in one of two camps: either you love him, or you hate him, and there’s rarely any in-between. Personally, I would lean more into the camp of “Cousins fan”, but I am hopeful that Minnesota finds a capable, young QB to take over the reins in the near future.
As for right now though, Cousins is the starter, and there’s no way around that. As someone rooting for the Minnesota Vikings in the year 2022, I am hoping Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips find a way to maximize him and win tons of games. Reading between the tea leaves, there’s good reason to believe that they will do just that, and Kirk Cousins may have the best season of his career.
Heading into 2022, this is probably the best coaching staff that has been put together for Kirk Cousins to succeed. There has been a lot made out of Cousins having worked with the trio of Sean McVay, O’Connell, and Phillips during his time with the Washington Commanders.
However, it has to be noted that this was at the very beginning of, not only his own NFL career, but it was also at the beginning of these guys’ coaching careers. Phillips was the only one who had more than two years of coaching experience when all three were in Washington, and even then, he was the tight ends coach who had very limited time with Cousins. Everyone was still learning how to win games.
On top of that, every year from 2018-21 since Cousins got to Minnesota, there has been a new offensive coordinator running the show. There has been a glaring lack of chemistry and communication between he and the Vikings coaching staff every single year. It’s not exactly breaking news that he and head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t get along, either.
With a Super Bowl now under the belts of both O’Connell and Phillips, in addition to their history with Cousins and his apparent role played in getting them to sign with the Vikings, this should at least be the most enjoyable coach/player relationship that Cousins has had in a while.
If Kirk Cousins is great at anything, it’s passing in play-action situations. In fact, during 2021 he had the best passer rating in the league on play-action and boot-action plays. This didn’t stop the Vikings from running the 12th-fewest play-action snaps in the entire league, though. Per PFR, Kirk Cousins had just 113 play-action snaps through the entire year. For reference, the Bills led the league with 196 such snaps, so there is certainly room for more in 2022.
In 2021, the Rams ran much fewer play-action snaps with Matthew Stafford, but in both 2019 and 2020, the team ran the most such plays in the league with Jared Goff. Given Cousins’ strengths in this department, it makes sense that O’Connell would run this style of offense in Minnesota as well.
Even further, we may be seeing some unique playstyles that Cousins has not had the advantage of using to this point in Minnesota. Klint Kubiak ran some interesting sets, but this was often to the team’s detriment as it was CJ Ham being used as a receiver.
This time around, it seems the Vikings are looking at involving a much more dynamic back as a receiver, Dalvin Cook. The use of screens and blocking schemes with Cook takes some pressure off Cousins to force the ball downfield, and it may lead to a more successful offense, especially on third down.
All in all, these are two relatively simple changes in the grand scheme of complex NFL offenses, but it is these two things that have me very confident in Captain Kirk heading into 2022.