Vikings Offense Evidently Ranks Inside Top 10

Vikings Lower than Preseason Expectations in PFF WR Rankings  
Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings offense kept the team in multiple games during the last two seasons. However, it wasn’t explosive enough to drag the team into the playoffs, as the franchise finished the 2020 campaign with a record of 7-9 and 2021 with 8-9.

This year, the offense is expected to take a step forward and become one of the ten best in the NFL, according to Adam Schein’s rankings. He works for and released his top ten offenses for the 2022 season.

The Vikings are the seventh-best unit in Schein’s evaluation. Last season, Minnesota’s offense ranked 12th in yards and 14th in points. During the Mike Zimmer era, the organization shifted its focus to the defensive side of the ball, a logical consequence when a team hires a defensive-minded head coach.

Schein envisions a big room for improvement because of the coaching change. “Mike Zimmer eventually zapped the life out of the Vikings, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. His thinly veiled disdain for Kirk Cousins was a problem. New head coach Kevin O’Connell, plucked from the Sean McVay tree, is going to relax Cousins and help him produce the best season of his career.”

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

O’Connell is currently implementing a new scheme — the same scheme that helped the Rams to win the Super Bowl in February. It’s heavily built on 11-personnel, which means three wideouts, one running back, and one tight end. The Vikings will probably see more two running back sets because C.J. Ham is pretty good, however, they are expected to play a lot more in 11-personnel than in recent years. In 2021, the Rams played 84.9% of the plays in 11-personnel, the Vikings, meanwhile, just on 42.5%. The Rams doubled the Vikings’ number.

More receivers lead to a more spread-out field, and the Vikings can find better mismatches for star wideout Justin Jefferson. He and Pro Bowl running back are another reason for Schein’s optimistic outlook for the Vikings offense:

Minnesota has two bona fide stars for Cousins to lean on. Over his first two pro seasons, Justin Jefferson has averaged 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns. No one should be the least bit surprised if he leads the league in receiving in Year 3. RB Dalvin Cook just made his third straight Pro Bowl. He’s one of the most dynamic all-around weapons in the league — all he needs to do is stay healthy.

Madden 23 Unveils Full Minnesota Vikings Ratings
Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Throughout the last two seasons combined, Jefferson is already leading the NFL in receiving yards with his 3,016 yards, the most in NFL history in the first two seasons of any player. His yards ranked him second in 2021 and fourth in 2020. O’Connell’s system helped Kupp to win the triple crown (receiving yards, touchdowns, and catches). Jefferson has a chance to improve his already strong numbers. The former LSU standout is a two-time second-team All-Pro.

Dalvin Cook, meanwhile, went to three consecutive Pro Bowls. His numbers dropped in 2021, and he misses a few games every season, yet, Cook is still a great back. O’Connell will find ways to utilize his dynamic playmaker, even if he is expected to pass the ball more often. Cook lined up as a wide receiver a few times in OTAs and training camp.

Even if he’s lined up in the backfield, the Vikings must get the screen game going again. It was a dangerous weapon in 2019 under offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Since he became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, they have the dynamic screen game, and the Vikings have a poor one.

If Vikings OL Improves, It'll Be at a Discount
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. © Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

A big part of the offense will be the offensive line. It’s essential for the passing game, running game, and on screens. After a decade of struggling, it is a real possibility that the line is slowly improving. Schein acknowledged, “The offensive line remains the soft spot of this unit. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw flashed excellence as a rookie. Here’s hoping he puts it all together in Year 2.”

Darrisaw is drawing comparisons to the elite Trent Williams and receiving praise from coaches and teammates. He goes up against Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith in every practice, and the term iron sharpens iron makes sense in that case.

Rookie Ed Ingram is putting pressure on veteran Jesse Davis to secure the right guard spot. Garrett Bradbury, meanwhile, is the biggest weakness of the line. He struggles in camp. The Vikings moved guard Chris Reed to center to be some competition. Even the possibility of trading for another center surfaced.

The Vikings will go as far as the offense takes them. If the unit can be an elite one, the sky is the limit, and the defense has to be just average to make the Vikings a dangerous team. However, if the offense is once again an average unit, the Vikings will struggle even to make the playoffs.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

15 Snap Reactions after Vikings-Lions

Vikings Territory Also Read: 15 Snap Reactions after Vikings-Lions