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New Viking receiver Josh Doctson will play his first game with QB Kirk Cousins two years after his first in 2017. Does their experience together give Minnesota real added value?
When the Laquon Treadwell was drafted out of Ole Miss by Minnesota, the idea was to put a player on the field that made athletic catches of well-placed passes–most especially in the red zone.
To say that Treadwell disappointed in his role as the potential catcher of these throws is a significant understatement.
Trying to even remember Treadwell’s targets in the red zone during his time in Minnesota take some doing.
Needless to say he did not win the confidence of former offensive coordinator Pat Schumer or quarterback Case Keenum in 2017, nor did he endear himself to John DeFilippo and Kirk Cousins in 2018
Treadwell has now gone. Potentially taking his place is one Josh Doctson, another guy whose draft pedigree was that of an aggressive and athletic receiver.
Whether or not Doctson can succeed where Treadwell failed (or wasn’t given the chance to try), will start with Kirk Cousins.
“It’s hard to bring someone in who I have no reps with and expect them, with two or three days of practice, to jump in,” Cousins said of Doctson after Doctson’s first days of practice with the team, “but (if) you have a longer relationship, I think that makes a big difference, and I think he does have some special skill sets that we can use to our advantage.”
Man With The Red Hand
Of the six Redskins’ touchdowns Cousins threw to Doctson in 2017, one was a bomb that the receiver fought for and won, another was a bomb TD on a blown coverage, and the other four were red zone passes where Doctson beat coverage and made plays on the ball.
Finding such things as red zone success just got brighter in Minnesota with Doctson added to the Vikings’ receiving corps.
Considering the Vikings will often find themselves in three-receiver sets with one tight end in one running back (11 personnel), or three-receiver sets with a tight end and two running backs (12 personnel), the options of a vertical passing game available to Kirk Cousins beyond Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will most likely be TE Kyle Rudolph and whomever is the number three wide receiver.
If Doctson finds himself in such an opportunity, he may be facing a chess match in defensive zone coverage, or a simple checkers match in man coverage–probably against Atlanta’s weakest cornerback.
Because of their experience playing together, such a scenario may reduce the football field into the proverbial ‘boys game in the backyard’ for Cousins and his old teammate.
Maybe for a play. Maybe two or three.
Everyone who’s played this game of football, in yards and kids leagues and on high school fields, have seen the quarterback–after a play call–give a last glance at a teammate and whisper to him, “be ready.”
In the scrum of the snap, the mesh of bodies and the diagram of options that come out of it, a quarterback sometimes sees or senses something about to happen and puts the ball in the air without thinking too much about it.
Indeed, Viking receiver Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs gave Cousins that opportunity at times in 2018, but because the Minnesota offensive line did not consistently hold back the tide of opposing defenses, it was not often enough.
If there is improvement there–and there absolutely has to be–new Viking Josh Doctson and may give this quarterback another guy to trust in that last split-second he has to make a decision.