Minnesota Vikings: It’s make or break time for Kirk Cousins

After signing a fully guaranteed $84 million contract last offseason, quarterback Kirk Cousins failed to lead the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs in 2018. Now the pressure is mounting on Cousins to prove he was worth the investment.

The Minnesota Vikings missed out on the playoffs last year after taking a deep run to the NFC Championship in 2017 with Case Keenum at the helm. Offensive Line issues and the once proud Vikings defense fell from glory during a tumultuous 2018 season. It was even more disappointing to miss the playoffs with their new 28 million dollar man, Kirk Cousins.

The pressure mounted to help Cousins out this offseason. They did not move on from Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater just to fail with Cousins. The public doubt of Cousins was palpable both among Vikings fans and NFL fans. Cousins has never won a big-time game in Washington and has yet to do that in Minnesota. That fateful loss at home to the Bears seemed to only confirm that Cousins could not win when it mattered the most. Cousins threw for only 132 passing yards all while being sacked 4 times and hurried 16 times. Cousins has thus been the subject of a raging debate since he last stepped off a field in early January.

We know they will work to protect Kirk Cousins

The Vikings finally addressed their offensive line by drafting Garrett Bradbury in the first round. Cousins now has a capable center on the line that should bring the stability he needs up front right away. The Vikings also doubled down on their needs on the interior by adding Dru Samia out of Oklahoma as well. It is extremely possible given Samia’s tape that the Vikings just added two starting offensive linemen to help Cousins out.

The Vikings will be working on transitioning Pat Elflein to Guard and Brian O’Neill will take over the starting right tackle spot. The wildcard in the shakeup will be how well they mesh, especially with the only returning starter being Riley Reiff at LT, but he was solid last year.

The Vikings went out and signed Josh Kline from Tennessee as well, thus shoring up RG as Elflein transitions to LG.

It was clear that the Vikings had an intent to help Cousins up front. Cousins is most dangerous when he can stand in the pocket and really scan the field. He should now be able to do just that with his new and improved offensive line.

For a unit that gave up 40 sacks last year, the improvement was much needed for their QB.

They just gave him new shiny weapons

If there was one thing the Vikings and Kirk Cousins missed last year in the passing game it was that safety valve that he could bail him out any time he needed it. They now have it in Irv Smith Jr.

While the Kyle Rudolph situation plays out and it looks more and more like Rudolph will be back with the team, Cousins might have two very good tight ends to throw the ball to next season. Rudolph is the steady hand and Smith is the athletic game breaker.

After losing Latavius Murray in free agency, the Vikings added Boise State RB Alexander Mattison in the third round. The Vikings will also be getting a healthy Dalvin Cook who will be nearly two years removed from an ACL tear to add to the upside of the backfield.

They now join the lethal duo of receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to make a much-improved offense for Cousins to play with this upcoming season.

The defense is back and ready to go

After a rough start to the year, the Vikings defense settled in their final eight games. They only allowed 18.2 points per game the second half of the season. It is imperative that they carry the momentum into the 2019 season. Anthony Barr will be back after spurring the Jets, and Holton Hill will have another year under his belt.

The loss of Sheldon Richardson could loom large, but the Vikings have a myriad of young talent at the position. Shamar Stephen is back from Seattle after a one-year hiatus. Young guys such as Jalyn Holmes and Jaleel Johnson are chomping at the bit for an opportunity. That position should not be a huge concern considering the talent there.

The real dominant factor of this secondary will be Xavier Rhodes. Mackensie Alexander finally took a leap, but Rhodes has to get back to his old ways. Rhodes had a down year last year as he gave up 29 receptions on 47 targets for 310 yards and two touchdowns when facing top receivers according to Pro Football Focus. Top cornerbacks like Rhodes rarely stay on a downward trend, but even if he does not pan out, the Vikings have Holton Hill and Trae Waynes as options too.

Cousins has to prove he is ready for the big time

Cousins has everything at his disposal to become a top flight QB. The defense picked it up at the end of the 2018 season and largely returns most of the same personnel, his weapons have improved, and his offensive line was bolstered. It is up to Cousins to come through when his team needs him the most.

Cousins has yet to win a playoff game in his career. Overall against winning teams he is 4-24. Numbers like that will not fly when you are on a team that is looking to you to win a Super Bowl.

Cousins was paid $28 million for a reason. It was to help the Vikings win a Super Bowl. The stats and his history all say he should not be able to do it. However, this is the best supporting cast that Cousins has ever had in his career. So, whether Cousins steps up or not, he has the help from Rick Spielman to go get the Lombardi Trophy.

But will he capitalize? He has to win the big one for once in his career. Now is his time to step up.

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