2019 NFL Season Preview- Minnesota Vikings
After coming one game away from the Super Bowl, the Viking's 2018 campaign can just be seen as a disappointment.
The offense never seemed to find an identity and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired after 13 games. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski was named the interim offensive coordinator but the damage was done at that point. The team signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive free agency deal, but his season was a letdown. While he set career highs in completion percentage and passing touchdowns, he struggled with turnovers and couldn't sustain the offense at times. Running back Dalvin Cook took a while to get going after coming back from knee surgery and missing five games with a hamstring injury, but still led the team with 615 yards and had added value as a receiver. Latavius Murray didn't provide much except in the red zone with six touchdowns. Tight end Kyle Rudolph was a steady performer, but wasn't utilized much in the passing game. David Morgan was used as a blocker and his presence was missed when an injury sidelined him for five games. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finished with 102 receptions. Aldrick Robinson was signed early in the season and over took Laquon Treadwell who pretty much cemented his status as a first round bust. The offensive line was once again the weak link of the team. Center Pat Elflein was slow to come back from offseason surgeries and left guard Nick Easton suffered a season ending neck injury. Left tackle Riley Reiff missed three games.
The defense was slow at the start of the season, but was playing like the league's best towards the end of the year. Defensive end Everson Griffen has been one of the top pass rushers in the league the last few years, but missed five games to deal with his mental health. Sheldon Richardson was the perfect complement to Linval Joseph. Richardson brought a pass rush inside while Joseph was the unmovable boulder. Stephen Weatherly showed promise when he stepped in for Griffen. Linebacker Ben Gedeon was the starter in the base defense, but was mostly on the sideline as Minnesota played mostly nickel formations. Eric Wilson started in place of Eric Kendricks late in the year when Kendricks was hurt. Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are one of the top duos in the league and the Vikings have a lot of depth at defensive back. Rhodes production dropped thanks to lingering injuries while Trae Waynes has developed into a solid player. Mackensie Alexander has become a strong nickel corner after dealing with some maturity issues. Safety Andrew Sendejo played just five games due to a groin injury.
Kicker Dan Bailey, the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, was signed before Week 3 and had an inconsistent season. Punter Matt Wile was claimed before the season and showed off his big leg. Punt returner Marcus Sherels has been a steady return man for several years now.
The team had four Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Adam Thielen, defensive end Danielle Hunter, outside linebacker Anthony Barr, and safety Harrison Smith while Hunter and Smith were both named second team All-Pro. Thielen formed one of the best receiver tandems with Stefon Diggs and set an NFL record with eight consecutive 100+ yard receiving games to start the year. Hunter has become one of the more underrated edge rushers in the league and is also solid against the run, finishing with 13 sacks on the year. Barr made his fourth straight Pro Bowl with 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one force fumble. Smith remains one of the league's best safeties as he made his fourth Pro Bowl and second All-Pro team with 12 passes defended and five interceptions.
The rookie class didn't offer much thanks to different factors. Cornerback and kick returner Mike Hughes proved to be a quick learner and showed promise before a knee injury ended his season after six games. Tackle Brian O'Neill was initially viewed as a project but became the starter at right tackle. Defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes spent the year learning his new position and didn't get much playing time. Tight end Tyler Conklin had just five receptions as the third man on the depth chart. Kicker Daniel Carlson was cut after missing three field goals in Week 2. Undrafted cornerback Holton Hill showed promise as the dime corner.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Even with the disappointing 8-7-1 season, head coach Mike Zimmer still looks to be the man to keep Minnesota on the right path as the team exercised their option to keep him through the 2020 season.
After the season, Kevin Stefanski was promoted to fulltime offensive coordinator.
Notable Additions- QB Sean Mannion, WR Jordan Taylor, FS Derron Smith
Notable Departures- QB Trevor Siemian, RB Latavius Murray, WR Aldrick Robinson, G Mike Remmers, G Nick Easton, DT Sheldon Richardson, CB/PR Marcus Sherels, S George Iloka, S Andrew Sendejo
Vikings 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 18th overall pick in the draft, the Vikings have to make changes if they ever expect to reach the Super Bowl. Especially at offensive lineman, safety, and kicker.
The offensive line has to be addressed. They lost two guards to free agency and Pat Elflein and Riley Reiff both missed time with injuries.
Andrew Sendejo is now in Philadelphia and Anthony Harris is largely unproven. Harrison Smith needs a suitable partner.
Key missed field goals have plagued the team for years. With Dan Bailey coming off arguably his worst season, the position needs a reliable difference maker.
On draft day, Minnesota ended up selecting North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall pick. Bradbury was viewed as the quickest center prospect in the draft, but will have to get stronger to generate push against bigger defensive tackles.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Irv Smith, TE, Alabama- Top route running tight end prospect, shorter than ideal
Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State- Can handle many carries, no break away speed
Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma- Quickest guard prospect, lacks patience
Cameron Smith, LB, USC- Classic run stopper, no sideline to sideline speed
Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas- Versatile lineman, slow off the snap
Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming- Good ball production, undersized
Oli Udoh, OT, Elon- Massive frame with long arms, weight management issues
Kris Boyd, CB, Texas- Top run support cornerback, vulnerable to double moves
Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon- Smooth athlete, inconsistent hands
Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State- High football IQ, not a threat after the catch
Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force- Consistent accuracy on snaps, two year service commitment
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings:
Jake Browning, QB, Washington- Four- year starter, lacks clutch and game changing ability
Irv Smith Highlights
What To Expect
On paper, the Vikings look like a solid team.
Kirk Cousins is a solid quarterback when he has the right pieces around him, but it's still unknown if he is capable of carrying the team on his own. Under Kevin Stefanski, the running game took more of a priority so the hope is Dalvin Cook will keep the offense more balanced. Another priority will be to get Kyle Rudolph utilized more in the offense, especially in the red zone. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs should remain one of the leagues top receiving duos and the hope is Dillon Mitchell can provide depth. The offensive line will look completely different. With the team drafting Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein will move to left guard while Dru Samia is the likely starter at right guard.
With Sheldon Richardson gone, the team will look to either Jalyn Holmes or Armon Watts to step up and provide an interior pass rush. Considering the team's default to nickel defenses, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks will likely see the most play among the linebackers due to their cover skills. The Vikings have one of the deepest group of defensive backs in the league. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes should continue to grow together and the group will be even more dangerous with the return of Mike Hughes. Anthony Harris is the most likely replacement for Andrew Sendejo while Harrison Smith should continue to be a steady force.
Minnesota will still have a competent defense under Mike Zimmer, but due to the questions on offense, I see them battling Green Bay for second place in the NFC North behind Chicago.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7