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The Vikings are a mediocre (pass blocking) line away from contending

The ‘Worst Vikings writer, period’ seems to have been right as often as he’s been mocked

One thing I learned while refining my Minnesota Vikings debate chops on /r/MinnesotaVikings was that no one likes when a writer hops into the comment section of their own articles to get all defensive with people who read their stuff. That’s something that I typically abide by, because I also learned from Reddit that my Vikings takes are … Let’s just say… Outside the mainstream.

Or, instead, they were outside the mainstream. I was the first person to call out the team on the offensive line, to call for the team to sign Kirk Cousins, to defend Cousins’ play, to predict that the 2020 Draft wouldn’t propel the team to an improved record, to predict a sub-.500 2020 record when others predicted Super Bowl, etc.

Now? My takes are either mainstream or just objective fact. And here I am, beating my head against the wall not because I like to be negative for da clicks, but rather because I believe this team is just an offensive line away from actually contending and am anxious AF that they’ll yet again blow the remainder of the off-season by yet again leaving the line as the last priority.

I bring this up not because I (at least solely) want people to give me credit. Instead, I get a lot of comments like this and wanted to address the “logic” therein because I think it’s important.

I love this team. I want them to succeed. I am as excited as anyone about this off-season, but I feel like I and we do this every off-season only to wake up after a Draft in which the team yet again prioritizes the defense and trades down to amass 7th-round picks instead of drafting guards who … Have played guard before.

I don’t care whether our readers agree with me (in terms of the personal ego aspect). I know that of the millions of clicks we get each year, the comments we get are typically derived from an emotion. Typically a negative emotion (hence the lack of ‘slightly agree, also disagree at points a bit. Well done’), to boot.

But I think that far too many people, like the above, conflate blind optimism with fandom or good journalism. That is by definition the opposite of both; especially the latter, and when it comes to the Vikings why would I sacrifice my prime earning years covering a team I actually loathe?

I’d argue very few people love the team more than I do. I just feel like I’m reliving the same off-season over and over again and that I’m seeing all the same optimism (genuine or otherwise) from the same people, about the exact same roster prioritization and that’s something that terrifies me.

With Riley Reiff gone the Vikings no longer simply are “just the interior of the line away!”, which is more complicated and terrifying that it already was. While it’s common sense that the left tackle spot will be harder to fill and is much more important… The fact remains that this team has only drafted five guards since Zimmer was hired and since losing both Joe Berger and Nick Easton this team has done everything imaginable to fill the guard spots outside of … using a day 1 or day 2 picks on players who had actually played guard before.

Let’s look at the five actual guards the Vikings have drafted under Zimmer.

Those guards are:

David Yankey – 5th round (2014)
Danny Isidora – 5th round (2017)
Colby Gossett- 6th round (2018)
Dru Samia- 4th round (2019)
Kyle Hinton- 7th round (2020)

While guards obviously aren’t as coveted as tackles, and a lot of teams find good guard talent in the mid-rounds, it’s time that the Vikings bite the bullet and use a first rounder on someone like Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis. Why? I mean. We could wait two years and see Davis as an All-Pro for the another squad, only for me to say see?

After all. I was the one who named FOUR interior lineman the Vikings could’ve traded down and taken for in lieu of drafting unmitigated disaster Mike Hughes. I was also the guy who started our live chat during the 2016 Draft by literally saying: ANYONE BUT TREADWELL!

But, I’m a hack because I’m not looking at the Vikings yet again spending every limited dollar on the defense this off-season. Which leaves the Draft. Bide your time, Joe, they have a plan. I’ve heard that every single season since the above guards left for the golf course and the Bayou.

Because, honestly, this off-season has aligned in such a way that the Vikings really only (I don’t mean that lightly) have starter level needs on the offensive line (perhaps only at tackle, depending on what happens with Ezra Cleveland and Mason Cole). But, I’m not convinced that Cleveland is the answer at right guard or left tackle. He graded out okay in the run game, but was atrocious in pass protection.

Sound familiar?

It should. Instead everyone is drooling over free agents that rank from the 50th to… unranked in PFF’s 2021 Free Agency rankings as covered in the piece that inspired this one.

Zimmer’s “Toxic Leadership” label debunked courtesy of FA? Not so fast…

Despite having negative cap space weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings have yet again found a way to move money around and in the process sign free agents that have got Vikings social media in a tizzy.

While I argued on my weekly appearance on Bob Sansevere’s ‘BS Show’ this morning that the team had spun mid-level free agents into PR gold, I also said that I thought that those players would have an outsized impact on the Vikings’ 2021 prospects.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Vikings defense will look nearly completely different in 2021 than it did in 2020. In almost a complete flip from last season, the Vikings will most likely have four different starters on the defensive line than played in 2020.

Presuming Danielle Hunter returns, the Vikes will also have an immunized Michael Pierce, free agent signing Dalvin Tomlinson, and whomever the Vikings inevitably draft in the first round (bet on it) at the other edge.

Other new/healthy players include Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, and Mackenzie Alexander.

Don’t get me wrong. I think they’ll be much improved. I do. But, we’ve seen a more stacked defense under Zimmer fail when things mattered most. More than once. I’ve argued for years that this team needs an elite offense to offset a good defense that gets exploited in big spots but is good in the regular season.

They still can have both. They’re frustratingly close.

With the combination of Pierce and Tomlinson clogging up the previously paper thin middle, Patrick Peterson acting like the coach on the field the Vikings needed for promising second year corners Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, and the return of (once reluctant) nickel Alexander, it’s safe to say the 27th-ranked unit should catapult back into/near the top 10 in 2021.

That leaves the offense. Well, the offense and special teams. But, for the sake of simplicity let’s say presume that special teams improve for the Vikings (because it can’t get much worse).

The offense was the main bright spot in 2020 despite the fact that the offensive line graded out worse in pass protection than it had in 2018 and 2019, with quarterback Kirk Cousins having his best year in purple in my humble opinion.

Sure, he’s had statistically better years, and 2020 was the worst record that he’d posted as a Viking, but his ability to orchestrate the long methodical drives the Vikings requested (to keep opposing quarterbacks off the field) while scoring a disproportionate amount of touchdowns in the process was masterful.

This stat, alone, proves that Cousins has earned his contract and could be an elite passer if he, you know, had a pocket to throw from.

With Dalvin Cook getting better by the year, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen being the best 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position, and Irv Smith Jr. emerging as a legitimate threat at the tight end spot (along with Tyler Conklin), the time has come for the Vikings to shore up their O-Line and learn from their past successes and failures.

As our very own Dustin Baker (who is now also the editor of our general NFL site, FranchiseTagged.com) pointed out recently, the Vikings have tried to solve their line issues via the draft these past few seasons.

You can read that take here:

The Vikings Don’t “Ignore” the Offensive Line

I wrote a counter-point to that piece here, explaining that while the Vikings have drafted players like Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland, they’ve dropped the ball on the other aspects of developing a successful line.

You can skim/comment how awful I am at life here:

The Vikings do ignore the O-line, just not how they used to

As I’ve said in most of my articles, I’m not negative for effect nor do I even think that I’m actually being negative. I think, rather, that I’m being realistic about a team that everyone but me predicted would improve on their 2019 10-6 record in 2020.

When I wrote this before last season I was roundly mocked by those that predicted the Vikings would make it all the way to the F… B… I… wait. Sorry. Went full ‘Silence of the Lambs’ for a second. I meant all the way to the Super Bowl.

Vikings 2020 Regular Season Record Prediction Round-Table

I mean. Read this and tell me if it sounds familiar…

https://www.startribune.com/your-takes-vikings-offensive-line-is-not-that-bad-blaming-it-is-lazy/600009643/

I was the first person in Vikings media to start bemoaning the offensive line and now that that is the topic that everyone covers as objective fact. Sadly, I’m still here saying what I’ve been saying for years.

Trading for Mason Cole was a good start, but this line desperately needs someone like Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis or left tackle Penei Sewell (who Mel Kiper Jr. recently attached to the Vikings not at 14, but 9).

Mel Kiper makes unique mock selection for Vikings at… Nine?!?

They’re genuinely that close to actually and finally potentially getting over the hump. While the Danielle Hunter situation could throw a wrench in the gears, the reality is that free agency was most successful, as I said on Sansevere’s show, in my opinion because it limited the ability of Zimmer to use the first three picks on the defense.

While Sansevere disagreed with me and thought Zimmer would find a way to still prioritize the defense (I told you my misanthropy was spreading!), what makes me as anxious as I’m sure to be frustrated a month from now, is that it really is that simple and yet the Vikings keep blowing it.

That’s not to say it’s simple in that whomever the Vikings could draft in those rounds for the offensive line would end up working out, but rather that this team as currently comprised feels like a team that simply needs a left tackle/guard, perhaps a third receiver (and that edge rusher) and some special teams/depth pieces to genuinely contend.

You would think that any team that is due to pay it’s quarterback $45 million guaranteed in 2022, and that also has Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, would bend over backward to give that offense time to throw the ball down the field. Because it’s 2021, with all it’s pass happy rule changes, not 1985 (as hard as Zimmer wants it to be).

In fact, insider secret. Zimmer actually hurt his eye not during the Chicago Bears game as reported, but rather because he got into a fist fight with a Mayan Calendar.

The potential positive impact by that O-line investment clearly outweighs the impact of drafting/signing any other players anywhere else. Period. So, while everyone in Vikings media suddenly agrees with the “worst Vikings writer. Bar none”, it is clear that the team has yet to pick up on that fact.

That’s what makes this so frustrating and is the reason why I was the sole writer to not laud last year’s draft as a “slam dunk final piece Super Bowl baby hashtag Tampa baby”.

When other writers reacted to my takes as me being so far out of pocket that I was on an island, I responded that I’d save the Tweet until the Vikings flamed out and missed the playoffs.

Well.

I lost the Tweet. But. This article sums it up well.

Vikings Draft Recap: Expecting Different Outcomes from the Same Behavior [PT 2]

So, I’m actually not even patting myself on the back nor bemoaning the reality of having a site with a comment section. Instead, I’m really hoping that this will be the last article and off-season where I’m covering the exact same thing.

You’d think I’d feel validated that everyone suddenly agrees with the Vikings media equivalent of Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’, but considering the fact that the Vikings line has gotten WORSE in pass protection while people celebrate the fact that every free agent signing was… Gasp… on the defense, again.

That leaves the line.

Again.

Let’s hope they finally get the message. Cause, for everyones sake? I need to stop writing about this/patting myself on the back. Clearly no one enjoys this, myself included.

Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson started purplePTSD.com back in 2015 & purpleTERRITORYradio.com in 2019, and purchased VikingsTerritory.com before the 2017-18 season , used to write for VikingsJournal.com and is the host of the ’Morning Joes’ & ‘About the Labor’ Podcasts, as well. Follow on Twitter: @vtPTSD

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Millennial Fury
Millennial Fury
2 months ago

The sad truth about Kirk Cousins: the FAKE Vikings fans hate him for things that have absolutely nothing to do with football.

Minnesota is a racist state filled with rich elitist liberals that HATE seeing someone outside of the group succeed. Minnesota is every bit what the movie Get Out was about.

It felt like I was the only person following Vikings football in 2017, at least among my social circle. Far too many were disillusioned by Colon Krapperdick and his racism that they didn’t bother to stop and understand how crucial sport is. The attitude by most “fans” was “let me know when they do something in the playoff, then maybe I’ll watch”.

Despite the best season since 1998, Vikings “fans” were largely ambivalent.

And then the Miracle happened.

I fell in love with Case Keenum – AND I WAS ALONE!!! Football is extremely political at the high school level; the wrong coach, the wrong team, the wrong school can kill whatever career you might have had early. I never got my shot, so to see an underdog like Case Keenum excel, while continually getting bashed in the media week-after-week felt special. The “fans” would bash Keenum as well: “He throws up desperation throws, and Thielen and Diggs bail him out!”

The NFC Championship game came. This town ran Case out of town. HE was blamed, despite throwing for 300 yards, considered elite in most games. Rudy seemed to not even try after the 1st quarter. Theilen pissed me off watching him play grab ass the following week at the Pro Bowl after he was suffering from “back spurs” the week before. The only Vikings who showed up to play in Philadelphia was Case Keenum.

I didn’t want Kirk initially; I wanted to roll with Bradford and Keenum. EVERONE thought that was nuts. They wanted their precious Teddy back. They missed 13 passing touchdowns a season. Keenum was the first Vikings quarterback to throw for 20 touchdowns in how long?! The majority of the Teddy faithful thought rAcIsM was the reason why this AWFUL quarterback was “shipped out of town”.

Kirk was never given a chance. Because POLITICS.

You see, like Case before him, Kirk is a Christian, conservative. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage. He’s friends with LEGITIMATE President Trump! Oh no, can’t have that here!

Before he ever suited up in a Vikings uniform, the Lib Tribune blasted him for not being able to find parking at the State Fair. “Why don’t you just get dropped off in a limo, Mr. $84 Million?!?!”

He was shat on for “pretending to be a commoner” by choosing to move to Rosemount rather than “Chanhassen with the other richies”. Now he’s shat on for living with in-laws in Atlanta and being frugal with his money in the offseason.

He was shat on for merely taking a vacation to Miami and enjoying the weather! These IDIOTS thought this was somehow an attack on Minnesota cold winters!!!!

They hate him because they love Teddy. That’s why they keep shifting the goal posts. Erin Rodgers has the shittiest road record and 4th quarter performance of any “elite” quarterback ever. Kirk is better. Yet excuses like “garbage time” (which doesn’t exist) are shrieked.

They STILL go on and on about his “Ten Touchdowns in 6 Games” CRAP when more than have those throws went through Bisi Johnson’s hands. Strange how Bisi was NEVER targeted again the second half of the season! In fact, the majority of Kirk’s picks have gone through the hands of bobbling receivers. Remember when Thielen absolutely blew a route in the San Fransisco playoff game and Kirk was somehow blamed for the pick?!?!

The Kirk hatred is bullshit. When he breaks records again this year, people will claim that the 17th extra game should somehow take away from his superiority over previous quarterbacks. If he’s the 1st Vikings quarterback this EVER to record 40 passing touchdowns, these “fans” will say that it shouldn’t count as a record because of this extra game. Mark my words.

Duane McGraw
Duane McGraw
Reply to  Millennial Fury
2 months ago

So you want to turn this into some political racist bullshit. Because Kaepernick knelt he’s a racist? You need to take your arguments centered on people agreeing with you elsewhere. You can’t justify your hate for us and other fans based on your political beliefs

Siorc
Siorc
Reply to  Millennial Fury
2 months ago

Joe, you need to get out a little more, or at least eat lunch with a different circle. “The TOWN” did not blame Case, nor run him out of town. The people I talked to wondered what happened to the defense, which actually seemed to fall apart in the 2nd half against the aints (shortly after Sendejo was knocked out of the game).
I agree the Kirk hatred is bullshit, and ditto to most of what you say about him. I wonder what would happen if he could be given a clean pocket consistently…

cka2nd
cka2nd
Reply to  Millennial Fury
2 months ago

Well, that was an interesting mix of insight (on class) and sewage (on race). One factual note, Bisi Johnson was underutilized last year, but when Thielen missed a game, he came in and was targeted seven times in one game and caught all seven passes for four first downs and one two-point conversion.

Millennial Fury
Millennial Fury
2 months ago

Before he ever suited up in a Vikings uniform, the Lib Tribune blasted him for not being able to find parking at the State Fair. “Why don’t you just get dropped off in a limo, Mr. $84 Million?!?!”

He was shat on for “pretending to be a commoner” by choosing to move to Rosemount rather than “Chanhassen with the other richies”. Now he’s shat on for living with in-laws in Atlanta and being frugal with his money in the offseason.

He was shat on for merely taking a vacation to Miami and enjoying the weather! These IDIOTS thought this was somehow an attack on Minnesota cold winters!!!!

They hate him because they love Teddy. That’s why they keep shifting the goal posts. Erin Rodgers has the shittiest road record and 4th quarter performance of any “elite” quarterback ever. Kirk is better. Yet excuses like “garbage time” (which doesn’t exist) are shrieked.

They STILL go on and on about his “Ten Touchdowns in 6 Games” CRAP when more than half those throws went through Bisi Johnson’s hands. Strange how Bisi was NEVER targeted again the second half of the season! In fact, the majority of Kirk’s picks have gone through the hands of bobbling receivers. Remember when Thielen absolutely blew a route in the San Fransisco playoff game and Kirk was somehow blamed for the pick?!?!

The Kirk hatred is bullshit. When he breaks records again this year, people will claim that the 17th extra game should somehow take away from his superiority over previous quarterbacks. If he’s the 1st Vikings quarterback this EVER to record 40 passing touchdowns, these “fans” will say that it shouldn’t count as a record because of this extra game. Mark my words.

Siorc
Siorc
Reply to  Millennial Fury
2 months ago

Exactly

Jon tatler
2 months ago

Your argument is obviously valid. The OL has been an afterthought for far too long. A DE in the first round this year and it’s all a wash.

However, my problem with your article (and most of what you write) is that it’s always about you as much as our beloved Vikings. You always feel obligated to defend and rationalize your past views because…why? You’re terribly insecure? You crave recognition or acceptance? Come on, Joe; no decent writer does this.

Your views on football are almost always 100% dead on. And for that this is a good site. Just please leave it at that and keep yourself out of he conversation. It gets…so…tiresome to read. You’re a good writer, leave it at that.

Fortunately, until that happens you also have the excellent Dustin Baker’s writing on this fine Vikings website.

FlyingMonkeyCow
FlyingMonkeyCow
2 months ago

Well, right again! Sad, isn’t it? Write your articles led by fanlike emotionalism, they love you. Write with objective critique, they hate you.

J Plucinak
J Plucinak
2 months ago

Nobody wants to read constant negative articles. YOU are NEGATIVE period, Yes we need an offensive line that excels. We don’t need to imagine how sore your arm and shoulder is from patting yourself on the back. Clearly you are the only one that enjoys your negative style unless a Packer fan fall upon your article. Thumbs down as usual.

Duane McGraw
Duane McGraw
2 months ago

@Joe Johnson, Ive said pretty much the same as you over the years. I’ve been told to go root for the Packers and quit following the team if I’m so unhappy with them and whatnot. So apparently I’ve learned over the years that you’re only allowed to criticize certain homer-chosen easy arguments like who the QB is. You’re not allowed to question or challenge the decisions of the front office/Rick Spielman. For homers, he found Thielen, drafted Diggs in the 5th proving he can find late round talent, etc. So after 10 years of mostly ineptitude at signing/drafting above average OL, ESPECIALLY guard, a lot of the homers finally complain. They still want us to believe Spielman is a genius though. You’re supposed to believe that THIS is the year Beebe becomes a legitimate WR3 and the years-long search since Jarius Wright was kicked to the curb, in favor of Beebe, is over! 😃
Spielman is to blame mostly for the years long issues with the OL as they existed in all of their Austin Shepherd, Chris DeGeare, Jeff Baca glory before Zimmer

Biglar
Biglar
2 months ago

What’s scary about this year and last year is that the Vikings need players to step in and play immediately, and be effective. That’s usually not how it works, Justin Jefferson notwithstanding. Typically players need a season or two to develop their bodies and minds to compete in the NFL. So while I expect the rookies from last year to play better this year, the players selected this year to fill the holes in the offensive line are unlikely to play well, even if they are good picks.

Richard Beckish
Richard Beckish
2 months ago

On this one, I’m with you 100% – I too fear “Groundhog Day”. Zimmer is wed to his Defense and Speilman is wed to his “value” drafting. If the Wilfs had any sense they’d step in and say, “Look Ricky, we don’t give a damn about your “metrics” or other nerdy garbage – so here’s what you’re NOT gonna do – You’re NOT gonna draft a DB or LB in the first 3 rounds, and you’re NOT gonna keep trading back to stockpile 7th round picks – or you’re NOT gonna have a job. What you’re gonna do is draft 2 blue chip GUARDS and a Tackle,” The other thing the Vikings need to do is scrap their zone blocking scheme, which requires lighter “more athletic” lineman – who get the QB killed on passing downs. Instead go for the big, plug ugly road graders.

Dwreck
Dwreck
2 months ago

Way to go Joe. I really enjoyed that. Every aspect of the FA and draft process has been just as you described, spot on. Have to admit I’ve felt alone for years saying “you win in the G.D. trenches!!” a hundred times over as I’m watching Kirk scramble for his life… come on vikings, get your poop in a group and put your time and money into the line!

Mulatu
Mulatu
2 months ago

This team could have prime Brady, Trent Williams, and fill in the gaps with the rest of the Oline, and would still lose. Why?? Zimmer is a royal dipshit who has no clue in any way how to lead a team into battle. He gets crushed unless its the Saints. The Mayan calender bit was hilarious. Nobody should take us serious as long as our current GM amd coach are in place. These additions this year will not make a damn bit of difference in the end. The Cole trade should have led to RS being fired. This is the crap that makes us lose. Look at other teams and how they build. This team is a joke.

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