The Minnesota Vikings have lost their first two games in resounding fashion and already face a crisis on offense in Week 3, with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the offensive line and the receivers all in a deep funk. The situation is fairly dire, according to team and league sources, and while the team was also prone to slow starts in games early last season as well, there is deep concern about their ability to quickly turn it around in 2020.
Scouts and executives from other teams see a unit devoid of an identity thus far, with serious questions being asked about the personnel, the constant churn of play-callers on the offensive side of the ball and the uber-conservative nature of defensive-minded coach Mike Zimmer.
Cousins has played poorly this season, taking safeties and looking out of sorts. The team’s focus of the offseason work was on off-schedule plays, but scouts who have watched his film see problems with timing and tempo in the pocket. Cousins has always thrived in the play-action passing game, but that has not been emphasized by new coordinator Gary Kubiak. And while Kubiak was on staff last year with Kevin Stefanski as the coordinator, it’s worth noting that Kubiak is now the fifth coordinator Cousins has played under in the last five years, a fairly staggering stat.
The departure of Stefon Diggs via trade has left an immediate void as well, scouts said. Diggs and Adam Thielen served as a great duo, but Thielen has caught just nine of 16 targets from Cousins this season (he caught 74 percent of Cousins’s targets from 2018-19) and has struggled to be a downfield presence. The rest of the receivers are young and unproven; first-round pick Justin Jefferson has great upside but is facing a learning curve now with no preseason and a truncated training camp.
“They aren’t a very difficult team to defend right now,” said one evaluator who has studied the Vikings. “There aren’t a lot of places to go with the ball and I’m not sure the QB trusts the offensive line and they’re getting nothing out of their tight ends.”
The interior of the Vikings line is a huge concern as well; teams are exploiting it to pressure Cousins, and the unit faces a physical front from the Titans on Sunday. This may be a must-win game of sorts for the Vikings, who had playoff aspirations after ownership spent big to retain Cousins, pay running back Dalvin Cook and extend Zimmer and the front office. Zimmer’s defense has slipped steadily in recent years and is no longer providing the pressure and turnovers as it once did, which further intensifies the woes on offense.