The Vikings Glaring Weakness for 2020

The Minnesota Vikings did not possess many available dollars under the salary cap heading into the 2020 offseason. The inference was that free agency would be nonchalant, and that was rendered true from an incoming perspective. Nose tackle Michael Pierce was added to the roster by the way of Baltimore after longtime Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph left for the Los Angeles Chargers. Minnesota will utilize Pierce’s run-stuffing services – in 2021. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Pierce opted out of the 2020 season.

Although the Vikings cap space was shrimpy, the offseason was still fairly raucous. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract was extended, so was head coach Mike Zimmer’s. Mostly-revered wideout Stefon Diggs was jettisoned to the Buffalo Bills for a smorgasbord of draft picks. Minnesota selected LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson in the 2020 NFL draft to replace Diggs. All cornerbacks over the age of 24 vamoosed the Vikings roster. The same goes for fan-favorite defensive end Everson Griffen as he joined an NFC foe, the Dallas Cowboys.

There’s more. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski skedaddled for a head coaching gig in Cleveland. Super Bowl champion Gary Kubiak was promoted to spearhead the Vikings 2020 offense. Defensive coordinator George Edwards – who was linked to the hip of Mike Zimmer – joined Everson Griffenwithin the Cowboys organization.

The Laquon Treadwell experiment was depressingly punctuated as the 25-year-old signed on with the Atlanta Falcons. The kicker-punter combo of Dan Bailey and Britton Colquitt reenlisted for three more seasons. Andrew Sendejo, JayronKearse, Stephen Weatherly, and Josh Kline are no longer with the team. Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter graciously restructured his contract. Dalvin Cook and Anthony Harris wrangled with management over money matters. And then Minnesota used the draft to replace the outbound personnel.

The Vikings stink now, right? Wrong. The team is projected to win the NFC North by sportsbooks’ forecasts although not overwhelmingly.

Despite a rambunctious offseason, Minnesota again has playoff aspirations. But they do have one pronounced weakness.

It’s Not the Offensive Line

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The Vikings 2020 offensive line is not sodden with talent. Right tackle Brian O’Neill is an emergent force on Minnesota’s front five. After that, it’s a work in progress. From right to left, it is theorized to look like this: O’Neill (RT), Pat Elflein (RG), Garrett Bradbury (C), Dakota Dozier or Aviante Collins (LG), and Riley Reiff (LT).

It’s not a powerhouse conglomeration of men, rest assured. Yet, recently-promoted Gary Kubiak has a documented history of offensive line cultivation. During his Denver, Houston, and Baltimore days, Kubiak’s offensive lines routinely ranked in the top 10 of the NFL in sacks allowed (in a good way) and rushing yards. In 2014, his latest stint as offensive coordinator, the Baltimore Ravens ranked second in fewest sacks allowed and eighth in rushing yards. On that line, right guard Marshal Yandawas the only showstopper. So, Kubiak will ensure this 2020 Vikings offensive line is respectable. It’s just what he does.

It’s Not the Wide Receivers

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Kleenex was in order when Stefon Diggs was traded – that is both understandable and forgivable. He provided the franchise with arguably its most treasured “where were you when” moment on January 14th, 2018 against the New Orleans Saints.

But here is a secret. An NFL team does not need two gangbuster wide receivers to win a championship. More often than not, recent Super Bowl-winning teams have modest talent at the wide receiver position and then robust tight end production. Have a look at the 2019 Kansas Chiefs, every New England Patriot team ever, the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, 2013 Seattle Seahawks, etc. as evidence.

The Vikings have sufficient pass-catchers to win a Super Bowl if history is any indicator. The championship emphasis will be on the defense, clutch quarterback play, competent pass-catching,ball security, and a running game to control the time of possession. In theory, Minnesota has the personnel to accommodate all of that.

It’s Not the Cornerbacks
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Listen, the cornerback play cannot get any worse than what occurred in 2019. The only reason the Vikings usually-mighty defense felt porous was due to repulsive cornerback production. Minnesota boasted the league’s fifth-best defense in points allowed, which was better than the San Francisco 49ers, believe it or not. Yet, it was no thanks to the cornerback position.

Thankfully, Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, and IfeadiOdenigbo forced enough pressure upfront, Eric Kendricks was the soul in the middle of the field, and the safety duo of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris caused a masking agent for the cornerbacks’ fetid shenanigans.

Whichever combination of young men is scribbled onto paper in Eagan, Minnesota, to start at cornerback will be an upgrade over Xavier Rhodes (and Trae Waynes to a lesser degree of indictment).

If one is still not confident about the outlook of the secondary, remember that Mike Zimmer is probably the best head coach on the planet to fix an ailing secondary. It’s his specialty.

It’s the Backup Quarterback Position

Kirk Cousins has never missed a professional football game due to injury. That’s either incredibly commendable or terribly spooky, depending on your perspective. He is probably due at some point to get banged up.

Should that take place in an extended capacity, the team’s fate rests in the hands of Sean Mannion. That’s not to say he is wholly incapable of smile-inducing surprises, but the 28-year-old is largely unproven. He has started just two games in his NFL career and both were losing endeavors. What’s more, he is the owner of a career 57.5 passer rating.

If Kirk Cousins missed games to COVID-19 or an honest-to-goodness injury, the Vikings would turn to a man in Mannionwho has never thrown a touchdown pass. He has been in the league since 2015.

How do you feel about that?