Here We Go Again: 3 Reasons for Purple Pessimism
Over the weekend, I published a piece where I offered up 3 reasons for purple optimism heading into the regular season. As promised, here is the evil twin: 3 reasons for purple pessimism.
I’ve often remarked that being a Vikings fan lends itself to a here-we-go-again mentality. The reason, quite evidently, rests in our fan base’s collective experience with suffering, letdown, and heartbreak. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% confident I knew how this season would go. I’ve got my guesses, but that’s all they really are: guesses.
Here is what I can offer you, though: a humble list of three things that may undermine our season. If these things happen, the 2021 year will be a long one.
1) The Offensive Line Remains Subpar
We all went into the offseason with the knowledge that things needed to improve up front. The Vikings proceeded by cutting Riley Reiff, a steady, underrated vet. We saved a ton of money, so perhaps it was the right decision.
What was surprising, though, is that we didn’t do much of anything to bring in help before the draft. We re-signed Rashod Hill, a strong option as a swing tackle. We traded a late-round pick for Mason Cole. Otherwise, we didn’t do too much. Heading into the draft, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Minnesota would prioritize the offensive line. Well, there were some agonizing moments, but we all breathed a sigh of relief when Christian Darrisaw – a player we could have very reasonably chosen at 14th – fell all the way to us at 23. Purple rejoicing could be heard throughout the land.
The issue, of course, is that Darrisaw is still out with an injury (though there has been some encouraging news). When will he be back? It’s uncertain. He wasn’t placed on the IR, so it seems like he’s relatively close. I don’t want him to rush, though.
On the left side of the line, Hill partners with sophomore Ezra Cleveland. On the right side, Brian O’Neill (God bless you, Mr. O’Neill) partners with Oli Udoh. Garrett Bradbury is locking down the center spot. This is an athletic bunch, a group that could very reasonably end up being fine. It’s also a group that may end up getting overwhelmed by the opposition’s pass rush. We’ve got four tackles – two of whom are playing guard – and a center who still needs to show he is worthy of a first-round selection.
Fans, very reasonably, have their concerns.
2) The Free Agent Acquisitions Were Poor Fits
I don’t think this will happen, but we’ll be in trouble if it does.
Let’s start in the trenches. I’ve already expressed my enthusiasm and optimism about the situation along the defensive line. I think things are going to go well up there, largely because of Dalvin Tomlinson’s impact. What happens if he fails to make the impact we’re all expecting, though? He is a 1-technique being who is being asked to slide over to 3-technique. Perhaps he struggles to get any push, making him a non-factor on passing downs. I have nightmares about the Vikings trying to substitute their d-line on passing downs only to see Aaron “Voldemort” Rodgers snap the ball before we get all our men off the field.
Even worse would be if Patrick Peterson doesn’t experience the career revival we’re all hoping for. There’s no debating that he has declined in recent years. Zim is being entrusted with resurrecting his career like he did with Terrance Newman not too long ago.
It would be a mistake to assume Peterson will be a true shutdown CB1. I think it’s likelier to expect him to be a CB1 who still needs considerable help from the safeties. If we don’t allow Peterson to play to his strengths, it could be a long season in Minnesota. He is getting paid $8 million this season, a ton of money all things considered (it’s the fourth-highest on the team). We need him to live up to that amount.
3) Kirk Cousins Doesn’t Take The Next Step
It’s been a rough offseason for Minnesota’s QB1. Much of it is self-inflicted.
Be that as it may, Cousins will need to quickly shift gears. Instead of putting his foot in his mouth, he needs to put the pigskin in the endzone. A lot.
He’s accounting for $31 million on the salary cap. As Michael Lombardi once noted over at The Athletic, teams don’t get in trouble when they pay elite money for elite production. Teams get in trouble when they pay elite money for pretty good production. Now is the time for Cousins to finally show he’s worth all that money.
His stats have always been excellent. No one can debate that. His “it-factor,” in contrast, has often been lacking. I know, I know: there’s 10 other guys on the field with him (and that’s saying nothing about the 11 defensive players or that kicker we’re all so concerned about). The fact of the matter, though, is that Cousins is easily the most important player on the Vikings roster. That’s what happens when you sign consecutive big-money extensions as a QB: you become the main man.
If the Vikings win the SB, Cousins will get most of the credit. If the Vikings crash and burn, Cousins will get most of the blame. Such is the life of an NFL franchise QB. Our purple fate is largely in Kirk Cousins’ hands.