The Vikings 2021 Season Will be Decided in the Trenches

Vikings Offensive Line
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If you were to ask the average NFL fan where the blame/credit for a team’s success should lie, they’ll probably tell you on the shoulders of a team’s starting quarterback. The head coach would likely get the second most answers.

For those of us who are invested in the digital world surrounding the Minnesota Vikings, these are the two biggest scapegoats we see: Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer. Both have had some great successes in Minnesota, but they have largely disappointed when it comes to bringing the purple and gold to the promised land and a Lambardi trophy.

For Zimmer, the blame is correctly placed. The closest the Vikings have made it to lifting the coveted Super Bowl trophy was an abysmal 38-7 performance in the 2017 NFC Championship game. Since that day, the Vikings have only played in two other playoff games, and both came in a somewhat unexpectedly successful 2019 season. 

Most importantly, Zimmer’s reputation as a defensive wizard has come into question. In 2020, the Vikings defense gave up more passing and rushing yards than most of the NFL. They also allowed their opponents to score on 50% of offensive possessions and recorded the fifth least sacks in the NFL.

On the subject of Kirk Cousins, it’s a bit more complex. Cousins has been playing behind a patchy, at best, offensive line for his first three seasons in purple. Despite this, he is statistically one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. If you want to debate that point, just check Dustin Baker’s Twitter as he does a much better job than I ever will.

Either way you slice it, these two men will get the most blame and/or credit if the Vikings 2021 season goes down in flames or soars to success. However, they are not the men whose shoulder’s this season’s hopes truly lie upon. The 2021 season lies squarely upon the wide shoulders of the Vikings offensive and defensive lines. 

Both Zimmer and Cousins thrive when their lines do well. On defense, if the Vikings line can keep opposing offenses from stream rolling them on first and second down, then Zimmer can work his magic on third down. On offense, if the line can get NFL’s-best-when-healthy Dalvin Cook going, Cousins can work what is really his strongest skill, the deep play action pass.

The Vikings front office’s plan for 2021 seems to resonate with this reasoning. Rick Spielman and company’s first priority was to retool the trenches. Signing big free agent Dalvin Tomlinson, bringing back the likes of Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, and Sheldon Richardson on defense, while drafting both first-rounder Christian Darrisaw and the high upside Wyatt Davis on the offensive side.

Of course, having the names on paper doesn’t automatically translate to wins. The games still need to be played. While it comes down to how well the offensive line plays, it is up to Zimmer and Cousins to take advantage. Though, historically, when the lines play well, Cousins and Zimmer’s teams find their most success and 2021 should be no exception.