Minnesota Vikings Weekly Player Recap: Week 1 2021

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The game yesterday was so disappointing. It wasn’t that the Bengals played well and the Vikes weren’t good enough. It was simply the Vikes shooting themselves in the foot, over and over again. The 12 accepted penalties were entirely too many. I didn’t disagree with any of the penalties called on the Vikes. The team looked ill prepared and lackadaisical. They showed some fight in the 4th quarter, but it wasn’t enough. OL was terrible, worse than last year. DL had some pass rush, but got gaped in the run game. The defense still struggled with allowing big plays.

QBs – Kirk is what he is

Kirk Cousins – 83 snaps (100%) 36/49 for 351 and 2 TDs, QBR 46.7, Passer Rating 106.8 This seems like a typical Kirk Cousins game. He made some nice throws, he put up some nice stats, but it isn’t enough. Coach Zimmer mentioned at the half he thought Kirk needed to make quicker decisions and get rid of the ball faster. I agree with that take. There were a few passes to Justin Jefferson that were late and/or high. There was a pass to CJ Ham that was the same. There was a play against a full blitz where Kirk took a sack instead of making a quick decision. He actually stepped up into a zero blitz. I don’t think Kirk is the reason the Vikes lost, but he wasn’t going to be the reason they won either. PFF had him as the highest rated offensive player for Minnesota at 80.9. ESPN’s QBR stat had Kirk at a below average 46.7. That is the enigma of Cousins wrapped up in two ratings.

RBs – surprising low running play totals

Dalvin Cook – 59 snaps (71%) 20 carries for 61 yards, 1 TD, 1 Fumble, 6 receptions for 43 yards (7 targets). Let’s get this out of the way, that was not a fumble. However, there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn the call. There wasn’t a definitive shot and the team in New York wasn’t going to overturn that call. The refs generally side to rule it a turnover because you can review, but then you have to have evidence they are wrong to overturn. It sucks and it likely turned a win into a loss. Dalvin wasn’t ever able to really get it going on Sunday. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t game changing either. Cook was good. The bar is high for Cook to perform and win games. If he is simply good, the team will need to play much better for a win.

C.J. Ham – 25 snaps (30%) 2 receptions for 9 yards (2 targets) Ham had two false starts on the first drive that led to him going to the bench for a bit. Other than the penalties he was good. I think he played significantly less than he normally would because the team passed more than expected. 50 passes to 22 runs. PFF 65.8

Ameer Abdullah – 9 snaps (11%) 1 rush for 4 yards, 2 catches for 15 yards. The only impact play he had was a 10 yard catch on 3rd and 2. The others were short plays on 2nd and 20+ yardage situations.

Alexander Mattison – 9 snaps (11%) 1 carry for 2 yards. Mattison has become a non-factor unless there is an injury to Cook.

WRs – were they not getting open or was Kirk not getting the ball to them in time?

Adam Thielen – 78 snaps (94%) 9 catches for 92 yards and 2 TDs (10 targets). I thought Thielen was excellent as usual. He made nice runs after the catch and caught everything that was catchable. There seems to be two thoughts on why Kirk held the ball. Indecision seemed to be what Zimmer was thinking, PFF seems to have thought the receivers weren’t getting open. PFF 66.7 is good for 3rd best on offense, but doesn’t match to what I saw as the impact on the game. I would’ve had Jefferson and Thielen ahead of Kirk’s rating.

Justin Jefferson – 76 snaps (92%) 5 catches for 71 yards (1 TD that was called not a TD) (9 targets) 1 pass for 11 yards. JJ was victim to the ball coming late on several throws. When the balls were catchable he made the most of it, with the biggest being a 34 yard catch that should’ve been a 35 yard TD if called correctly. It seemed Jefferson was a good 3-4 feet in the end-zone, I don’t know how the replays weren’t definitive. Cook punched the ball in on the next play, but that did cost the Vikes a TO. I don’t think it impacted the game in the long run as it went to OT anyways and I don’t think one more TO would’ve led to a TD drive. PFF 67.3

K.J. Osborn – 67 snaps (81%) 7 catches for 76 yards (9 targets) KJ had a really good game. He showed he is a capable #3/4 WR. It makes me question why the coaching staff didn’t think he deserved a single offensive snap last year. PFF 63.0 good for 5th best on offense.

Dede Westbrook – 15 snaps (18%) 1 catch for 11 yards (1 target). I anticipate Dede to slowly work his way into the fold more. He might take some snaps away from KJ, but not a whole lot. I really think the offense can give JJ and Thielen more rest going forward. I am never in favor of skill players playing 90%+ of the snaps. I think 4 or 5 snaps away from Thielen/JJ will help keep them fresh for a full season and not have a huge impact on the offense. Dede is the primary punt returner and only had one non-fair catch for 12 yards. He bobbled that one too, but was able to reel it in. PFF 56.2 seemed low to me.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette – 4 snaps (5%) No targets, nothing to really speak of. ISM likely won’t see much outside of kick returns unless there is an injury.

TEs – Irv was missed

Tyler Conklin – 59 snaps (71%) 4 catches for 41 yards (4 targets). Tyler’s big play was on the two minute drill to setup the tying FG. He had a 27 yard catch after the Vikes started with a 7 yard dump off to Cook. He had the 2nd false start on the opening drive. Other than that he was the typical dump off guy in long yardage situations to setup the punt. He’s not that exciting and you have to hope Herndon develops into something for any hope of TE excitement this year. PFF 46.6 is 2nd worst on offense

Chris Herndon – 12 snaps (14%) 2 targets (0 catches) Hope Chris can get up to speed fast. The Vikes rarely were in two TE sets. The staff obviously feels like Herndon isn’t ready.

OL – terrible all around. Penalties abound for holding and false starts. I don’t think the refs were wrong on any of them.

Rashod Hill – 83 snaps (100%) I thought Hill was the worst player on the field. Hill had a holding penalty right after Cincy got their first TD and another on a short pass to Deede when the Vikes had a drive going right before half. He also had an illegal formation because he lined up so far in the backfield after getting beat like a drum. He was bad an pressure was coming in on his side on a regular basis. PFF 49.7 is 3rd worst on offense.

Ezra Cleveland – 83 snaps (100%) Cleveland is what he was last year. He is a below average OG that is slightly better than the dumpster fire around him. Bradbury, Udoh and Hill were all worse. He “only” had one penalty for holding that killed a drive before it started when the team was down by 3 late in the 4th.

Garrett Bradbury – 83 snaps (100%) Woof, Bradbury is not improving whatsoever. He makes you miss Pat Elflein. He had the worst PFF grade on offense at 37.4 and I didn’t see a single positive in the run or passing game. Bradbury had two holding penalties, with one declined because it was a 9 yard pass on 3rd and 20.

Oli Udoh – 83 snaps (100%) Udoh was disappointing and the OG play in general looked to be the same as last year. The team struggled to get push in the run game and couldn’t block anyone in the passing game. Kirk needs better play on the interior OL to succeed and this is not going to get it done. PFF 57.9 was 5th worst on offense. Udoh had a dumb unnecessary roughness call when he jumped on a player on the ground and a holding on the first offensive drive of the game that led to a punt.

Brian O’Neil – 83 snaps (100%) Potato is the best OL we have now that Reiff is gone. He was decent at RT. Only one penalty on O’Neil for a false start.

Blake Brandel – 2 snaps (2%) Nothing significant to speak of, 2 jumbo package plays.

DL – The defensive line did a nice job getting pressure on Burrow. They did not do a nice job against the run and allowed the Bengals to get 149 yards on the ground.

Danielle Hunter – 60 snaps (87%) Hunter looked like you would expect in his first game back in a year. He was a little slow to start, but did get a sack to end a drive on a 3rd and 5 in the 4th quarter with the team down by 3. That was then wasted by the Cleveland hold on the Viking drive and the defense had to stop them again.

Dalvin Tomlinson – 47 snaps (68%) He wasn’t dominate at all, he was ok. Not enough from a highly paid NT. I expected better in the run game, but he did get one pressure on Burrow. Not terrible, but we should expect better against a mediocre Bengals team.

D.J. Wonnum – 47 snaps (68%) There was nothing from the RDE spot to get excited about from Wonnum or Griffen. PFF 42.3 is an accurate representation for the lack of productivity with someone who is playing with 3 talented teammates on the DL.

Michael Pierce – 41 snaps (59%) Pierce was really strong in the pass game. He got pressure up the middle on a regular basis. He ended up with 2 sacks, one to end the first Bengal drive in OT and the other was on the drive where the Bengals failed on 4th down deep in their own territory. Pierce did have one offsides jump where he gave the Bengals a free play that ended in a big gain to setup their first TD. PFF 71.2 is good for 3rd best on defense.

Everson Griffen – 28 snaps (41%) PFF 52.0 is 5th worst on defense for the team. He has nothing on the stat sheet and the lack of pressure from the right side was a weak spot on the DL. I was actually surprised how much Everson played because I didn’t notice him out there as much.

Sheldon Richardson – 22 snaps (32%) Sheldon was the only DT I thought played poorly in all facets of the game. He split a tackle with Kendricks 5 yards down the field to start the 4th quarter. That was his only contribution on defense. PFF 40.3 is 3rd worst on defense.

Stephen Weatherly – 17 snaps (25%) I thought Weatherly played well in his limited snaps. He had a nice stop of Mixon to force the punt before the Vikes tied the game up. That kept the team in it and is more than most of the team was doing against the run. He also had the stop that setup 3rd and short on the final drive of the game before the Bengals ended the game on 4th down. PFF 78.0 was good for the best on defense and 2nd best overall behind Cousins.

Armon Watts – 17 snaps (25%) Not a whole lot to speak of from Armon. I did like the stop he had on the 2nd Bengal OT drive to force a 3rd and 6.

LBs – maybe the best group on the team?

Eric Kendricks – 69 snaps (100%) Kendricks is the best player on defense IMO. I’d take him over Hunter or Harrison Smith. He wasn’t great in this game, but he always shows up to play. He led the team with 15 Total tackles. PFF 70.6 is good for 4th best on defense.

Nick Vigil – 69 snaps (100%) Nick did very well on Sunday. I was surprised his rating wasn’t better, but it could be due to the positioning in the run game. He had a nice sack for a 12 yard loss that really ended the Bengals’ second drive of the game. His biggest play was the stop on the 4th and 1 at the Bengals’ 30 yard line. He stuffed Mixon to get the turnover and really change momentum of the game. He also forced the 4th down in OT prior to the Bengals’ making the big play to win it.

Blake Lynch – 16 snaps (23%) I didn’t notice much from Lynch but somehow in his 16 snaps PFF like him, grade of 69.2 is good for 5th best on defense. He had the tackle on Mixon right before the game ending FG.

DBs – gross from Breeland and Alexander

Xavier Woods – 69 snaps (100%) Xavier Woods was ok. He had a nice pass breakup to end the 1st quarter that forced a punt. He didn’t make many plays to speak of. It did appear he was the defender that lost Uzomah on the 4th down in OT that basically ended the game. That’s a tough play to defend and he did not handle it well.

Patrick Peterson – 69 snaps (100%) I think the Bengals mostly avoided Peterson. They were having too much success against Breeland to really go Peterson’s way. I only remember him giving up one reception for 7 yards on a 3rd and 19.

Harrison Smith – 69 snaps (100%) For the most part, Harrison Smith was good yesterday. He had a nice 10 yard sack in the 2nd quarter. There was one pretty bad missed tackle after the DL forced the RB to stumble and he was there for the taking. Harrison missed the tackle to give up a big gain that should’ve been a loss. Other than that he was covering all day for Breeland’s incompetence and the gaping holes in the run defense. PFF 72.5 make sense to me and is good for 2nd best on defense.

Bashaud Breeland – 61 snaps (88%) The worst player on the field and that is not an exaggeration. He got beat deep regularly and reminded me of the defense we saw from the young CBs last year. PFF 26.0 is the worst on the team and deservedly so. Quite frankly, better play from Breeland and this game isn’t close. He had a DPI for 26 yards that setup the first Bengals TD. He got smoked for 50 yards by rookie Ja’Marr Chase for the second Bengal TD (and then limped off Rhodes style). It was bad and the team really needs better from Breeland.

Mackenzie Alexander – 50 snaps (72%) Mac Alexander wasn’t much better than Breeland. He played a lot because the team stayed in nickel for most of the game with Barr out. There was an easy INT that went off his helmet and into a WR’s hands. He certainly didn’t make the Bengals miss him. PFF 39.6 was 2nd worst on defense. He did have a pass defense to hold the Bengals to a 53 yard FG to keep the team within 10. That was the only positive contribution I saw all game.

Kris Boyd – 8 snaps (12%) Boyd came in when Breeland limped off (a few times). He gave up a play to Higgins to get the Bengals down to the 2 before their 3rd TD. Other than that, there wasn’t much from Boyd other than special teams.

I don’t usually comment much on Special Teams, but they were superb on Sunday. Greg Joseph was a perfect 3 for 3 on XPs and nailed the 53 yard field goal to tie the game with no time left. Berry’s first punt was a paltry 39 yards, but he was good after that, including a huge 63 yard punt in OT to setup the Bengals at their own 10.

I thought overall the team looked poorly coached and that is what led to the loss. 12 accepted penalties is entirely too many (5 declined penalties too). The secondary looked similar to last year with big plays given up. The team had 14 missed tackles which led to a giving up a large number of rushing yards. The play calling on offense did nothing to help slow down the rush. There were only 8 play action calls and 5 roll outs of Cousins. This was with the Bengals getting immediate pressure up the middle and left consistently. The lack of creativity is something we’ve come to expect from the Vikes. If it continues, it will be a long year and a new coaching regime should be expected for 2022. It is just one game and there is plenty of time to turn it around. I will not over-react and assume the team now goes 4-13. I will give them more time to figure it out, but this looks a lot like 2020.

Don’t take the number of options as a sign there were a ton of good players on Sunday. I take it as no one really stood out. I’ll have my worst player on tomorrow’s nincompoop of the week.

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