Vikings media master Mike Wobs… Wobsh… Wobby, sat down with Kirk Cousins in the brand new Vikings studio at Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center for a first look at the new digs in Eagan (pun intended) and also one of the more in-depth looks at the Vikings new quarterback, Kirk Cousins. As Cousins says in the intro, it’s only been three months since the Vikings signed him to the largest contract in NFL history and like he says it definitely feels like a lot longer than that, because of the hype and impatience that comes with waiting for a brand new toy that you know you’re getting for Christmas but can’t play with until then.
Note: The NFL forces you to click over to YouTube so they can count their clicks, so prepare to click over to watch the video (otherwise you can just keep reading to get the play-by-play if you’re at work or without sound).
The interview covered the obvious with Wobby beginning the short discussion with how it’s been for Cousins coming into the Vikings at a position that inherently comes with leadership responsibilities. Cousins stated that that’s the reason that quarterbacks so rarely change teams as it’s just such a colossal change for everyone involved, but said that he has balanced “starting over at a leadership position” by saying that he’s basically just deferred to being himself, which if you’ve seen any interviews with Cousins means that he’s just naturally a leader. That means that he’s not forcing anything and is letting it fall into place, which is good as this is a Vikings team that is full of leaders and by working hard he shows that he’s leading by example. Cousins did point out that there are other leaders on the team both in terms of players and coaches, but that he’s been pleasantly surprised by how seamless the transition has been, at least in that regard. Which is good because it means that the team is buying into what Cousins is selling.
In terms of moving to Minnesota, Cousins seems to be living it up as he’s been to multiple (terrible) concerts, like Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain, while also attending a Twins game and a Wild playoff game. He’s also purchased a home in the area, already, which is good because it means that he’s planning on staying here for a long time (hopefully beyond his three-year contract, as an extension would mean that he’s lived up to the massive expectations that are on his shoulders as the highest paid player in the history of the NFL). He did also mention that he attended those concerts with other players on the team, which means that the team is definitely capable of sacrificing things for their quarterback as I can guarantee that perhaps outside of Brian Robison there is no one on that team that wanted to attend a Shania Twain concert.
Wobby then gets into the offense, starting with a clip of Cousins on the field saying how he’s basically been able to get well paid in the NFL by throwing to running backs. While he was clearly joking, he was basically implying that a lot of his gaudy numbers in Washington came from dumping the ball off to the running backs that they had there. That’s a great sign as the Vikings, at least in the past decade or so, haven’t had a lot of offenses that focused on getting the ball in the hands of their running backs through the air. The obvious reason for that was Adrian Peterson, who had hands of stone, but it was also scheme related as they did have Jerick McKinnon on their roster the past few seasons and they rarely used him in that way (at least when compared to other offenses in the league). With a back like Dalvin Cook coming back from his ACL tear last season and even the beast that is Latavius Murray also being able to pick up yards through the air, it’ll be interesting to see how Cousins and new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will come up with that in regard.
In talking about DeFilippo and what it means to be in a new offense, Cousins discussed how “organized” coach DeFilippo is and that the offense will be predicated on that attention to detail. He does say that the offense will be a mix of what DeFilippo did/saw in Philadelphia, what Cousins did/is used to from The Redskins and also what the Vikings did last year as “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. That’s interesting as I, at least, didn’t really think that they’d create a melting pot for this upcoming seasons’ offense but rather that they’d do a lot of what Philly did last year (or at least a version of it, the DeFilippo version). It’s great to hear that they’re, and by they’re I mean that DeFilippo, is open to new ideas enough to be really the anti-Norv Turner in that he isn’t so arrogant that he wants to square peg the round-hole that could’ve been this Vikings offense. Playing to Cousins’ strengths could mean that the Vikings will be spreading the ball around, a lot, while with DeFilippo calling the plays it could also mean that the Vikings may end up throwing the ball to the tight end position a lot.
I was fortunate enough this past Saturday to be able to chat with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph at his youth camp at the TCO Performance Center and I asked him about lining up wide (at the receiver position) and also alongside another tight end (or two, as he added) and he seemed very excited about the opportunity stating that Philly did a lot of two and even three tight end sets. You also have to think that they will be airing the ball out a lot as Cousins does have one of the better deep balls (especially when compared to the quarterbacks that this team has had this past decade) in the league and arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen (and a bunch of interesting options at the third spot between Laquon Treadwell, Kendall Wright and even newcomers like Brandon Zystra).
In talking about Thielen and Diggs, whom he calls “Diggs-y”, he says that Diggs’ best trait is how he tracks the ball in the air. Meaning that he is able to predict where the ball will be, which means that he is often able to catch the ball in stride, which combined with his elite route running skills means that he is just really hard to defend. He calls Thielen a very “natural” receiver that is really hard to cover, one that “attacks” the football (as opposed to receivers that “absorbs” the ball, which means they shy away from it, which is “hard to defend, hard to cover” and most likely cuts down on interceptions). Cousins states that the Vikings need to keep Diggs/Thielen healthy, something that is interesting but considering Diggs’ history with injury and games missed, makes sense (although I doubt Cousins meant it that way, he more meant that because of how good and important they are to the team they definitely need to be on the field).
Turning to the defense, Wobby, asked Cousins what he’s noticed about the defense now that he is playing against them every day compared to what he picked up playing against this Vikings defense a lot over the course of the past few seasons. Cousins calls them “very sound”, which sounds boring but when he elaborates on it by saying that they’re rarely out of position and rarely give up free plays (meaning that offenses have to “earn” every yard they get). Hopefully by playing against this defense Cousins’ come into the season completely ready and raring to go as the Vikings have a rough schedule and will need every win they can get come playoff time with all the competition that exists in the NFC. In a soundbite from when Cousins was wired for sound towards the end of the video, he is seen and heard talking to a Vikings coach or executive and in something that may rile up ‘Skins fans, he mentions a scenario in which the Vikings go 6-10 this season, which’d be a “one out of ten” for him in terms of how he feels about the season. He said “even if I hated Washington and went 13-3, it’d be a nine out of ten”, meaning, I believe, that the missing component there would’ve been his love for the team/the area. He finishes by basically saying “we gotta win”, which is something that everyone has been saying since the rumors of Cousins coming to Minnesota, for the amount he cost, has been saying as well.
Seeing that he’s aware of that is great as he sounds motivated by it as opposed to oppressed by it. He’s a very well spoken guy who sounds really prepared and driven and that’s the stuff you want out of your quarterback and while that sounds like an obvious statement, the NFL has a history of quarterbacks who only play football because of the paycheck and what comes with it, so we at least know that Cousins is going to put in the work necessary to win come the start of the season. So, it was a great interview and one that should turn some of the people that were on the fence about Cousins to the optimistic side. Granted, words are meaningless when it comes to wins and losses and like Cousins said, [they] gotta win when it’s all said and done.