Minnesota vikings 2019 season preview
By Alex Williams
The Minnesota Vikings are the ultimate NFL yo-yo. Year upon year they bounce up and down with inconsistency. Seven wins in 2014 was followed by 11 in 2015. Eight wins in 2016, again, followed by 14 in 2017. In 2018, the yo-yo’ing Vikings dropped again down to eight wins. It is hard to really pinpoint why the Vikings didn’t have success in 2018. Kirk Cousins put up big numbers like he always has, but costly turnovers and an often porous offensive line ultimately held the team back.
The offensive line was the top priority this offseason. The Vikings looked to rectify the protection on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was sacked 40 times in 2018. First-round selection Garret Bradbury will start immediately at center, with Pat Elflein moving to guard. It was clear with their draft plan on where the Vikings feel they are weakest. The first four selections were all offensive picks; Bradbury, Irv Smith (TE), Alexander Mattison (RB) and Dru Samia (OL).
The emphasis on the offensive line didn’t stop at the draft. In free agency, they signed veteran guard, Josh Kline, who was seen as the weak link in a very good Titans offensive line last season. Their main loss was that of Sheldon Richardson. It will be a big loss for the Vikings, but they simply didn’t have the cap space to retain him.
One of the more bizarre off-season narratives was the re-signing of linebacker Anthony Barr. The outside linebacker had agreed to a verbal deal with the Jets but pulled out after a having a change of heart.
The Vikings undoubtedly have the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen surpassed 1,000 yards in 2018. On the other hand, they lack serious depth. Laquon Treadwell hasn’t come close to his first-round potential in the three years in Minnesota. A stronger emphasis will be put on the run game, taking the pressure off Cousins, Diggs and Thielen. Dalvin Cook has had two shaky seasons to start his career, as a result of injuries, and the Vikings will need to be aware of this in 2019.
If the Vikings are to succeed they need a breakout year from Cook, who can help Cousins in play-action, something which he excels in doing. One issue that might ferment for the Vikings is a power struggle on the sidelines. Kevin Stefanski is the offensive coordinator, but Gary Kubiak was brought in as an “offensive advisor”. If they can work that dynamic out then 2019 has a lot of potential for the Vikings.
Even with the loss of Sheldon Richardson, the Vikings defense remains stacked. Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter are the linchpins of Zimmer’s defense. Hunter had a career year in 2018, his 14.5 sacks leading the team. This production needs to continue for the Vikings, along with getting Everson Griffen back to his Pro Bowl play, after a turbulent 2018 campaign, in which he only started 10 games.
Anthony Barr’s resigning was a massive boost for the Vikings, as the outside linebacker is one of the best in the league at pressuring the quarterback. The secondary still remains one of the better units in the league, but a fall in production in 2018 for both Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes will be a concern for Zimmer.
Missing the playoffs was a massive blip for a roster as talented as the Vikings in 2018. Mike Zimmer is under a lot of pressure for that not to happen again in 2019. Likewise, with the Bears looking for back-to-back NFC North titles, the pressure on this talented roster mounts further.
A lot of the success in 2019 will be down to the offense and the arm of Kirk Cousins. He has to play up to his $84 million contract and prove to the league he’s more than just a “very good” quarterback. If Dalvin Cook can sustain a full season, the Vikings offense should look more balanced. This will only be a positive thing for Cousins and the Vikings. They should be more than just a playoff team in 2019.
Record Prediction: 11-5
Image Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports