5 Reasons to Be Worried about the 2024 Vikings

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Earlier this weekend, we chronicled five reasons to be excited about the 2024 Minnesota Vikings. Those can be read here. Now we’re on to the counterpoint, as regular season Vikings football kicks off in 105 days.

5 Reasons to Be Worried about the 2024 Vikings

Ranked in ascending order, these are five reasons to be worried or skeptical about the 2023 squad (No. 1 = should cause the most worry).

5. The Schedule Is Not Easy

4th Straight Offseason
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Six 2023 playoff teams in the first eight games, plus Aaron Rodgers’ team. That’s Minnesota’s assignment out of the gate:

Week 1 — at New York Giants
Week 2 — vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 — vs. Houston Texans
Week 4 — at Green Bay Packers
Week 5 — vs. New York Jets (London)
Week 6 — Bye
Week 7 — vs. Detroit Lions
Week 8 — at Los Angeles Rams (TNF)
Week 9 — vs. Indianapolis Colts

This segment of the schedule will not be easy, but thankfully, the back half of the schedule lightens up, at least on paper. According to Sharp Football Analysis, Minnesota has the NFL’s fifth-hardest schedule on the whole, which is a raw deal for a team that finished in third place last year inside its division.

4. Life without Kirk Cousins

New Wrinkle for Kirk
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It’s wonderful that Minnesota took the plunge for a rookie quarterback in J.J. McCarthy and a patchover passer in Sam Darnold. But at least for a season, it’ll be lucky if either man or both combined produce Cousins’ usual 4,000 passing yards and 30+ touchdowns.

Most are excited about it, but embarking on life without Cousins is a brave new world — that will probably result in a dip in passing yards and touchdowns at the league’s most important position.

3. Interior OL Is Prove-It

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Dalton Risner has not rejoined Minnesota for the 2024 campaign, nominating Blake Brandel for left guard duty. Because of that de facto promotion, the purple interior offensive line consists of Brandel, center Garrett Bradbury, and left guard Ed Ingram.

While that threesome could possibly thrive in 2024, most fans and pundits classify the trio as a big blah. Vikings loyalists simply have to trust the process, as Kevin O’Connell has improved the offensive line every step of the way since taking over for Mike Zimmer 28 months ago.

2. Hockenson-Less for a While

a New Wrinkle
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to Hockenson personally, there was a little update last week — that won’t put any deadlines on his return. “They haven’t really put a timeline on it. We’re just kinda taking it day by day, week by week, there’s just so many variables that you can go through in this process,” Hockenson said via NFL.com.

Hockenson added, “I’m doing really good right now. We’re attacking each process. I’m attacking each one and it’s been awesome, the progression has been incredible.”

Most fans expect Hockenson to hit the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list in September, though that is merely speculative as of May. And if that occurs, Minnesota would turn to a hodgepodge of fill-in tight ends, including Josh Oliver, Robert Tonyan, Johnny Mundt, and Nick Muse. Newcomers Trey Knox and Sammis Reyes also live on the current 90-man roster.

No Hockenson to start the season is unfavorable, especially for a team with quarterback question marks.

1. Interior DL Lacks Juice

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Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to upgrade the spot next to Harrison Phillips, including free agents like Christian Wilkins, Arik Armstead, D.J. Reader, Grover Stewart, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Rankins, and Maurice Hurst, among others. It reportedly made a run at Wilkins, but he latched onto the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster for four years and $110 million.

After that, the draft shook down, and the Vikings didn’t find a high-profile DT there, either. Adofo-Mensah wound up with “Prospect X” late-rounder Levi Drake Rodriguez. The last best hope this offseason at defensive tackle is exploring the free agency of Calais Campbell or firing off an unforeseen trade.

Otherwise, this is the group:

  • Harrison Phillips
  • Jerry Tillery
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Jonah Williams
  • James Lynch
  • Jaquelin Roy
  • Levi Drake Rodriguez
  • Tyler Manoa
  • Taki Taimani

After Phillips, the assortment isn’t becoming a playoff contender, which Minnesota may not be anyway in 2024.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.