Heading into the 2018 season, the Vikings were a large favorite to win the Super Bowl. Coming off of a surprise season from QB Case Keenum and a NFC title game berth, expectations were high. They had signed QB Kirk Cousins and would have RB Dalvin Cook back for a full year. However, the 2019 season turned out to be one of massive disappointment. The team missed the postseason, barely squeaking their way above .500 (8-7-1) as injuries and player decline plagued the team. Heading into the offseason the Vikings were looking to return to glory, starting with a revival of their offensive line. The team would also need to find a way to get their rushing defense back to the elite level of 2017, helping to balance out one of the best pass defenses in the NFL. With a new quarterback last season, the Vikings could also only hope that the issues they were experiencing was just adjustment. In short, the Vikings had a few key areas to improve on, and this offseason they needed to capitalize on them.
One thing the Vikings did not have to worry about this offseason was their pass defense, which was ranked 3rd in passing yards allowed. After S Andrew Sendejo went out, S Anthony Harris filled his place beautifully, prompting Sendejo to be released. Another safety in George Iloka also is no longer on the team, signing with the Dallas Cowboys. The defense took another huge hit this offseason in the loss of DT Sheldon Richardson. Despite playing only one season in Minnesota, Richardson was an integral part of the team’s defensive line. On the offensive side of the ball, the core remains fairly intact, just losing some depth. The most notable loss is RB Latavius Murray, who played a big part in the offense when RB Dalvin Cook was out. In all, the Vikings were lucky enough to not suffer much of a blow to their key core, and whatever blows they did suffer, they made sure to replace…
The offense needed some repair. They had fired their OC John DeFilippo midway through the season, and were in need of an offensive play caller. They ended up going with the end of season interim, in Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski is familiar with the ins and outs of the team already, being with the team since 2006 most notably as the QBs coach the past couple of seasons. With a larger role, Minnesota is hoping he can reinvigorate an offense that faced struggles in 2018. The offensive line has been a very large part of the team’s struggles, ranking as one of the worst in the NFL. The Vikings attempted to fix this by drafting C Garrett Bradbury in the first round last season. With center being arguably the most important position on the line, the Vikings were able to add a presence that will help improve it right away. They continued to bandage their biggest wound, as G Josh Kline was another addition for the offensive line this season, that should prove to ultimately be beneficial. Shifting outside a little bit, the Vikings drafted TE Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama with their 2nd round pick. He should prove to add some recieving depth and even a bit of blocking. To fill in two other holes previously mentioned in RB and DT, the Vikings drafted RB Alexander Mattison and signed DT Shamar Stephen. While neither provide the impact of their counterpart losses last season, they are both good pickups that should serve the team well this season.
On paper, the Vikings look very, very good. Quarterback Kirk Cousins constantly stuffs the stat sheet, they have arguably the best WR duo in the game, RB Dalvin Cook is promising, and the defense is headlined by names such as S Harrison Smith and DE Danielle Hunter. However, while yes, the names are flashy, the team does have its flaws as well. The biggest one could be summarized in a simple word. Age. Many players on the Vikings are already starting to fall out of their prime, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Much of the reason the defense got worse last year was due to decline. Xavier Rhodes just wasn’t the same player last year in large part due to injuries. However, with cornerback being a position thriving off of athleticism and youth, the 29 year old Rhodes will have to work hard to prove his game once again. Star safety Harrison Smith has also hit the age of the big 3-0 and, while he looked spectacular last year and should be again, a small bit of decline is in most likeliness. The defensive line is also starting to age, with EDGE Everson Griffen and DT Linval Joseph already on the decline. However, all of these players mentioned will all still be extremely valuable and cannot be counted out. It’s in part due to this that the Vikings defense should still remain elite, especially with the help of breakout edge Danielle Hunter, who recorded 14.5 sacks last season. After all, you can never count a defense out when mastermind HC Mike Zimmer is behind it. On the flip side of the ball, the aforementioned improved offensive line should help, and having Dalvin Cook healthy will bolster the run game. The pass game looks solid once again with superstar WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph running routes for QB Kirk Cousins. While Cousins has been under controversy lately, regarding his play against tougher opponents, there is no question the effect he has when look at his efficiency and volume. If the offense improves like it should, this team will be no laughing matter.
The Vikings schedule is also no laughing matter. For starters, their own division is one of the hardest in the NFL. Playing the Bears, Packers, and Lions twice is no joke. As if that wasn’t enough, the Vikings will also have to play the AFC West, another division that no team wants in their schedule. The NFC East along with the Seahawks and Falcons round out their schedule, with 5/6 of those teams being playoff threats. Despite this being a very talented team, the win total may not reflect it due to the difficulty of this schedule. Expect anywhere between 7 wins to 11 wins, with our prediction falling at 9-7. While the team may not be Super Bowl favorites next year, the talent of this team is unmistakable, and there is a potential for another Minnesota Miracle to happen, this time over a full season.