10 Vikings Under the Most Pressure in 2023

NFL Analyst Criticizes Kirk Cousins
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrate the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings underwent a lot of changes in the offseason despite going 13-4 in the previous year. Of course, the disappointing loss in the postseason influenced many roster decisions, just like the performances of individual players in 2022.

Two staples of the franchise, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks, were released for cap-saving purposes after both had a down year, and they aren’t getting any younger. Another significant change was the departure of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell who coordinated a bad defense. Brian Flores, a former head coach, took over.

10 Vikings Under the Most Pressure in 2023

To avoid the fate of Donatell and the veteran players, all players and coaches must perform well. Every snap in the NFL matters to secure a job. Some Vikings are under more pressure than others. The following list is not in order.

K.J. Osborn

10 Vikings Under the Most Pressure in 2023
Sep 30, 2022; Thundridge, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) during practice at Hanbury Manor. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Osborn enters his fourth NFL season and is slowly earning veteran status. He is under contract for the 2023 season before he will be a free agent next year or signs an extension with the Vikes, which is exactly why he is under pressure. His future salary, the second contract is when the big money is made, will be decided by his level of play in the upcoming season.

Osborn has yet to show he can be more than a WR3 behind two other guys. After not playing on offense in his debut season, Osborn recorded 655 and 650 yards in the last two campaigns. Decent numbers but nothing special.

He will probably lose the job as the WR2 behind Jefferson to rookie Jordan Addison. However, he must show more consistency to earn a big paycheck next offseason.

Garrett Bradbury

Bradbury was in his contract year in 2022 and did enough to sign another one. However, only the first year of his deal is guaranteed. The Vikings can just replace him next year if he doesn’t repeat his successful campaign.

He improved his pass protection, but it is still his weakness, especially against the best defensive tackles. In the playoff game against the Giants, he had to go up against Dexter Lawrence, a second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler, and Lawrence dominated Bradbury.

The Vikings could do a lot worse at center but also better. Bradbury is a fantastic run blocker, an underrated skill in media and among fans.

Lewis Cine

Cine is still a young player and has plenty of time to develop. However, if he once again fails to beat out Camryn Bynum for the second safety job, similar to last year, the word bust will be hard to avoid for too long.

Cross 1 Big Vikings
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Bynum was one of the worst Vikings defenders in a bad unit, and Cine was a talented first-rounder. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be good enough to claim the starting spot. The one exception is certainly if he is still hurt, but he is already going full speed in OTAs.

Andrew Booth

Another second-year defender, Booth was brought in as a starting cornerback, but that hasn’t happened. Of course, injuries didn’t help. He suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and a meniscus injury that ended his season.

However, fellow rookie Akayleb Evans usurped him on the depth chart to start the season, and when he got a chance to play, he didn’t play well. Booth is still only 22 years old, but he must win the competition against rookie Mekhi Blackmon and Evans — and stay healthy. He was a second-rounder for a reason, but he must show his talent at some point.

Kirk Cousins

The debate about Cousins is endless. And there’s no reason for the debate. Is he elite? No. Is he bad? No. Is he a solid QB? Yes.

Cousins will be in a contract year. Quarterbacks, even worse ones than Cousins, are getting paid big bucks. That’s the NFL in today’s day and age. The veteran will be 36 when he steps on the field in the 2024 campaign, so teams might be hesitant to give him a large contract.

The only way he can change that is if he continues to play at a high level and proves that he is not declining. The usual 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards will do the trick to earn him another nice payday from the Vikings or a different team. Having a successful season with a deep playoff run would also put some narratives to rest.

Alexander Mattison

This is only notable if Dalvin Cook is not on the roster. But if that’s the case, Mattison would have the chance to step out of Cook’s shadow and be a starting running back for the first time in his professional career. For four seasons, he has been Cook’s backup, and that can finally change.

Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and running back Alexander Mattison (2) look on before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings re-signed him to a lucrative two-year deal worth $7 million. He has to win the starting gig over Ty Chandler and DeWayne McBride. The current regime drafted both.

Jalen Reagor

Once famously drafted over Justin Jefferson, Reagor turned into a punt returner only. His route-running ability almost cost the Vikings the game against the Colts, and the coaching staff benched him. Unless he can somehow drastically improve his receiver ability, he won’t see the field on offense.

As a punt returner, he hasn’t been very good either. For that reason, the team could cut him and open a roster spot for someone else if they can find a different punt returner. Free agent signing Brandon Powell used to do that job for the Rams when Kevin O’Connell was there.

Ed Ingram

The second-round pick was supposed to fix the Vikings’ interior offensive line problems that had been going on for years, but he became just a part of the problems. Ingram beat out Chris Reed and Jesse Davis in training camp but was a liability on the field, especially in pass protection. No NFL player allowed more quarterback pressures than the former LSU guard, and only two offensive linemen allowed more sacks.

PurplePTSD: Old Viking to Dolphins, Ed Ingram Momentum, MIN-LV Winners and Losers
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram (67) defends against Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Vernon Butler (94) in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Ingram improved in the second half of the season, but his struggles must be fixed if the Vikings want any chance in the upcoming season. The team employs a pocket-passing quarterback, and he needs a pocket, something the Vikings haven’t given Cousins in five seasons. Ingram has the talent to become a good guard, but he must put it together sooner rather than later.

Marcus Davenport

The edge rusher comes in as a replacement for Za’Darius Smith, who was traded to Cleveland. Smith was a Pro Bowl player and was extremely productive on the other side of Danielle Hunter. The Vikings need a strong pass-rush duo considering their struggling secondary.

Davenport has never played a full season, and injuries have always slowed him down. That must change in the upcoming season for the Vikings to be successful and for him to receive a big contract in the 2024 offseason. The Saints traded up for him to grab him in the first round for a reason, but he has to show his talent more consistently.

Jordan Addison

Oct 15, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) catches a pass against the Utah Utes in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports.

It might not be fair to put pressure on a rookie, but that is the life of a first-round selection. Addison is expected to slide into the starting lineup for Osborn or at least to become the team’s WR3. Many expect gaudy numbers because they remember Jefferson’s ridiculous 1,400 yards and think that can be replicated. A normal rookie campaign might not be enough for some fans.

Even reasonable expectations in the 600-800 yard range are not easy to fulfill in the first season of playing professional football. A rookie should always get time to develop, but the draft position and the praise he is already receiving higher his expectations even further.

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