QB Hot Read: Vikings Kirk Cousins is heating up

This week, I take a closer look at Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. In back-to-back weeks, the often criticized signal-caller has thrown for more than 300 yards and multiple scores while quieting his detractors in the process.

At the time of his signing, Kirk Cousins received the highest-paid contract in the history of the NFL. His 3-year, $84 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings was also the first fully guaranteed contract ever. But his salary wasn’t the only thing assured.

With significant compensation comes lofty expectations. So high in fact that Cousins’ first year in Minnesota was considered a failure despite throwing for 4,298 yards and career highs in completions (425), attempts (606), completion percentage (70.1), and touchdowns (30). While the numbers represent success, 2018 was a season in which Cousins played inconsistently against upper-echelon opponents, and came up short in pivotal moments. 

Therefore, you can imagine how media pundits and Vikings’ fans felt after a 2-2 start to the 2019 season. Before Weeks 5 and 6, Cousins averaged less than 184 yards and completed 64.6% of his passes. 

Since then, Cousins has caught fire. In Week 5, he earned the 4th highest grade among qualifying quarterbacks in Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM). He’d best that in Week 6 with a positional best 47.48. While Cousins has been middle of the road through six weeks (27.49), he’s put together consecutive elite performances. This, according to PFN’s exclusive metric that determines an individual’s impact within their offense. 

In Week 6, Cousins led the league in Intended Air Yards (IAY) and Completed Air Yards (CAY). He’d also top all other quarterbacks in Completion Percentage Differential–further explaining his league-best grade.

As the film analysis delineates, Cousins took risks. He’d throw a pass early on to a covered receiver with three surrounding defenders, and it would pay off. With the drive extended, Cousins and the Vikings offense would capitalize with a touchdown, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.

The deep shot to Diggs came as a result of the balance within the Vikings’ offense. Cousins and company were clicking, and the play-action passing game was getting into full gear.

The Eagles were hellbent on stopping the Vikings’ rushing attack. It makes sense considering the Vikings are 3rd in the entire NFL in rushing (159.0 per game). However, Minnesota gained a mere 3.5 yards per carry on Sunday as the Eagles stifled the run but disregarded Cousins’ ability to pass the football.

Cousins was not about to stop taking shots, either. Regardless of field position or whether the game was in hand, both offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski and quarterback Kirk Cousins remained aggressive. 

It seems the Vikings are still finding their identity as an offense. In the first few weeks, they’d prove themselves a premier rushing offense in the NFL. With that said, all it took was some drama from the receiving corps and more criticism towards the highly paid quarterback, and the second-place team in the NFC North responded.

If Week 6 is any indication, the Minnesota Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins are a potential powerhouse out of the NFC. Renowned for their defense, the Vikings may find themselves in the thick of things with the possibility of a potent offense.

As long as they continue running the ball effectively and allowing Cousins to do what he does best, the Vikings will not be an opponent to trifle with. By playing aggressive and leaning on the run game for added opportunities, Kirk Cousins may be coming into his own in year two. Although, two games do not make a season.

Catch up: Week 5 edition of QB Hot Read.

Make sure you’re getting the latest installment of QB Hot Read as a new quarterback film study drops every Wednesday with Shane G. Tyler, the Content Director and contributor for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @SugaShane15.

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