Klint Kubiak is going to have to answer a lot of questions as he tries to improve the Vikings offense. Some fear that his lack of play-calling experience and relative youth may undermine his success. These are legitimate concerns that we all have. Underneath the big, broad questions, though, are several smaller ones. One of the preeminent questions rests in how Lil’Kub defines the word balance.
Everyone knows that Mike Zimmer’s overall goal is to have an unpredictable offense. Zim wants to do that by being balanced. Being able to run and pass out of the same personnel package makes life difficult for the defense. This balance is at the core of Minnesota’s identity on offense, and yet many of us have had concerns about overemphasizing the run. Can Lil’Kub satisfy Zim’s emphasis on offensive balance while nevertheless integrating more explosive, innovative plays?
Lil’s Kub’s Impact
In some ways, Lil’Kub will be successful if he merely maintains many of the same components of the offense. Dalvin Cook had an excellent season, finishing with a career-high 1557 rushing yards. Elite rushing production is exactly what Zimmer wants to see. It plays into Zim’s complementary football and time of possession goals.
It’s not a coincidence that Cook’s success stands alongside elite production from Justin Jefferson. Klint acknowledged as much in his introductory press conference as OC. One could even argue that Jefferson deserves an increase in usage. His 125 targets were considerably lower than several of the other top receivers.
Adam Thielen also had a strong season, though he lacks the eye-popping Jefferson numbers. During the season, we expressed our concerns about Thielen’s usage, or lack thereof. Thielen remains a top-tier NFL receiver, and yet he was an afterthought far too often down the stretch. Only getting four targets and three targets in Week 14 and 15 is inexcusable. C.J. Ham, God bless him, had three targets in Week 14. We were in a must-win game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Bucs, and Thielen was pretty much used at the same rate as Ham in the passing game.
Now, I recognize that all of this can’t fall on the OC. It’s entirely possible that the Bucs went into this game planning on completely shutting down Thielen, contributing to the target total. Even still, the Vikings paid Thielen close to $13 million last season. He deserves more attention in this offense.
It’s also going to fall on Lil’Kub to find a balance with the running back rotation. Cook’s 356 touches were a career high. In all likelihood, the Vikings will look to decrease this number. Alexander Mattison had 109 touches last season, though he could certainly handle more, especially given his ability to catch the ball. Mike Boone, moreover, only had thirteen touches. Boone can handle far more, and he certainly deserves the opportunity. One of the glaring ironies of the season was that the emphasis on a balanced offense contributed to the RB rotation being unbalanced. It’s something that can’t continue.
There is only one ball on the field. It’s tough to integrate so many legit options, and yet it’s not impossible. Klint Kubiak will likely need to re-define what balance means within the Vikings offense. Minnesota shouldn’t completely abandon their core identity. Rather, Lil’Kub should look to achieve balance while nevertheless prioritizing an approach that integrates the skilled players more. Being able to do so effectively could be the key to raising this offense from good to great.
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