Kirk Cousins Must Avoid INT-Happy Jets

The Minnesota Vikings had to worry about the New England Patriots pass rush last week with NFL sack leader Matthew Judon on the opposite side of the ball. New York Jets Quinnen Williams is a star in his own right, but it’s the secondary that may be looking to capitalize against Kirk Cousins most.

The New York Jets used a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. As one of the most highly coveted cornerback prospects in the draft, it’s not surprising he has had so much success early on in his career. Starting all 11 games for New York thus far, Gardner has picked off two passes while leading the league with 14 passes defended. Already emerging as a lockdown cornerback, Minnesota can expect that he will be matched up against Justin Jefferson plenty on Sunday.

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Oct 16, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates defeating the Green Bay Packers, Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports,

The Jets 12 total interceptions are tied for fourth across the NFL, and while Michael Carter has a pair of them despite starting only four games, the secondary has been opportunistic regarding turning over the opposition. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead have three and two interceptions, respectively, and backup Ashtyn Davis has one of his own. No matter where Cousins looks to attack the New York defense, he will need to keep an eye out for lurking danger.

A season ago, Cousins threw just seven picks alongside 33 touchdowns. That was the second-lowest total of his career as a starter, and it may have been reflective of a risk-averse offensive gameplan. In 2022, Kevin O’Connell employed a more dynamic passing attack that looked to get Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and newly acquired T.J. Hockenson more involved. While that comes with more opportunities for the defense to jump routes, it hasn’t resulted in disaster yet. Cousins has thrown nine interceptions to go with his 17 touchdowns, and although he’d like to avoid surpassing his career high of 13, the turnovers are relative in the scope of production.

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Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson has surpassed the century mark in receiving yards in more than half of his games this year. With Christian Darrisaw again out up front, the Vikings will need to do a good job keeping Cousins upright and getting the ball out of his hands. The Jets can get to the quarterback, but Minnesota can’t allow the pass rush to dictate poor decisions. There are enough talented players in New York’s secondary to make Cousins pay, and he’ll need to be calculated when working through his progression.

If the goal last week was to keep Cousins from being sacked, and that was well executed, allowing it to happen just once, then the Vikings need to avoid turnovers this week. New York will look to put Mike White in advantageous down and distances. Minnesota can do its part in not allowing that to happen by capitalizing on its own drives.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.