It’s over-reaction Monday, the first one of the season, in fact. So, why not get it started . . . in a positive way. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings $84 million man (I wonder if I will ever stop introducing him that way), had his Vikings debut under center and led the team to a home win over the San Francisco 49ers. He wasn’t terrible and he wasn’t, well Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night, but how did he do? And I know it is early—just one game—but let’s see if he checks off all, or any, of the boxes that a price tag like that should bring. Here we go:
This is one of the first things you may have noticed about Cousins on Sunday, as his arm strength was improved over the quarterback that lead the Purple last season. There wasn’t a lot of stretching the field against the Niners, but enough to keep them honest. But more obvious, and perhaps more important, Cousins wedged several balls into tight windows and that definitely helped move the chains. But don’t believe me, listen to head coach Mike Zimmer explain:
“He throws into tight places. When he needs to hum it, he can hum it. There was another throw in there, can’t remember which one it was [to Adam Thielen], but he hummed that one in there pretty good, too. I thought it was probably a little bit of both: a little guts and a little bit of arm talent.”
Throwing Touch and Accuracy
You want a QB with a guy with a gun, but if it doesn’t come along with some touch and accuracy, he is little more than a one trick pony and won’t win you a lot of football games. Cousins demonstrated both on Sunday, in particular on the touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. Both passes into the endzone were to tight windows and required some great timing and touch to complete. With two of them coming in such big spots they don’t look like flukes.
“He is pretty accurate,” Zimmer said. “The one to Rudolph was a tight window. The one to Diggs, the one to [David] Morgan. He has been doing it in practice, too.”
Double check (but no discount).
This means different things to different people—and different players—but at least one point in the game, Cousins was seen on the sideline exhorting his offensive line while the defense was on the field. We are not sure what he was saying, but by the sight of the animation and intensity, he appeared to have the linemen’s attention. And they did a nice job for him. It remains to be seen how far such an MO like Cousin’s will take the team—or whether it can wear thin after a while—but for now, we’re checking the box. Throughout the spring and summer, his teammates have said Cousins is a great guy and very funny. Even if he does things (or because he does them) such as trademarking “You Vike That!”
Cousins’ numbers were good, not great: 20 of 36 passing for 244 yards, two scores and no picks (for a 95.1 rating). That’s all good if it is a stat line from a victory, but if it would have come in a loss, it might cause one to wonder if he did enough. Cousins spread the ball around (to seven different receivers) and took care of the ball, as well. Personally, I could have used 31 more passing yards from him for a prediction contest we are conducting on the Purple Journal Podcast, but I won’t hold it against him. You don’t want one guy having to do it all, and the Vikings no longer just want a game manger. Cousins’ performance was well-balanced between both, with room to improve on the completion percentage and the passing yards (damn it).
Cousins didn’t seem to make any mistakes that we could discern, and at times he was seen directing players and putting them in the right spot. We are not sure how much of the offense he knows yet, but what was on display on Sunday was certainly under his command. He looked off receivers, checked down properly (and not too often) and checked this box.
Cousins took some hits in the preseason—due to break downs in protection or offensive line scheme—and he was sacked three times on Sunday. Plus he ran the ball four times for 26 yards. You don’t want all these hits on your QB (there were five in the game), but if they happen, you want him to be able to take a hit. No play demonstrated Cousins’ toughness more than his third down run that came up just shy of a first down. Cousins, rather than tuck and duck for cover and miss the line, dove for the mark and took a tremendous hit. Once again, you don’t want that to happen, but the players liked seeing their quarterback giving up his body when the opportunity to finish off the opposition was on the line. Apparently, the head coach liked it, too.
“Hey, when the game is on the line we’re trying to get the first down,” Zimmer said. “Go for it. I’m all in.”
We are too—Cousins is checking all the boxes.