Recapping the Vikings Players to Watch vs. WAS

Recapping the Vikings Players to Watch vs. WAS
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

Another week, another one-score win for the Minnesota Vikings. This time Minnesota went on the road and came out of FedEx Field with a 20-17 victory against the Washington Commanders. Before the game, I selected three Vikings players to watch, so let’s look at how they got on.

Kirk Cousins

Vikings Grab NFC North by the Throat
Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins returned to FedEx Field to play the team that drafted him for the first time and left victorious. The day started perfectly for Cousins as he marched his team down the field for a score on the game’s opening drive. The Vikings quarterback completed all five passing attempts, finishing the drive by finding Justin Jefferson in the endzone. However, the Vikings wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter.

Against an excellent Washington defensive front, it would always be a grind for the Vikings offense. Cousins was close to finding Jefferson for a second touchdown at the end of the first half. Unfortunately for the Vikings, one defender managed to get his hand on the ball, tipping it into the path of another for an interception. Add in some untimely drops, and the Vikings couldn’t get points on the board.

Cousins took a lot of hits and even had to step aside for one play, but he kept coming back and eventually led his side to victory, leading to praise from the Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne.

With the score at 17-7 in the fourth quarter, Cousins led his team to three unanswered scoring drives as the Vikings made it six wins in a row. Pro Football Focus gave Cousins an overall grade of 79.0, which was his highest grade since the Week 1 win over Green Bay. Despite coming under heavy pressure, the most impressive thing for me was that Cousins never looked flustered.

Ezra Cleveland

May 26, 2021; Eagan, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It was not a good day at the office for Ezra Cleveland. He received a pass-blocking grade from PFF of 0.0 – yes, that’s zero. He clawed himself up to a 29.4 overall grade thanks to his run-blocking grade of 57.6. However, it was a day to forget for Cleveland, who couldn’t handle the Commanders interior pass rush. 

It was a massively disappointing performance from the Vikings guard, who had been enjoying a good season up to this point. He will have the chance to bounce back next week against the Buffalo Bills.

T.J. Hockenson

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Obviously, the plan was to ease T.J. Hockenson into the team. Right? No such chance. Hockenson led the Vikings in receptions on his debut, catching all nine of his targets for 70 yards. That is an impressive stat line for someone who was only traded to the Vikings last Tuesday.

Hockenson has every chance to become Cousins’ number-two target in the passing game ahead of Adam Thielen. This won’t necessarily be bad for Thielen, who had three catches for 67 yards. The Vikings new tight end doesn’t just bring the production we saw on his debut. His mere presence will open the game up for the rest of the Vikings offense.

PFF gave Hockenson an overall grade of 76.4, the fourth-highest grade from a Vikings offensive player. It was an impressive debut that set a high standard for Hockenson to follow.