As we do each week, let’s learn more about the New York Giants opponent by turning to our “5 questions” segment. This week, Chris Gates of Daily Norseman answers our questions about the Minnesota Vikings.
Ed: I have to get right to it. What’s the deal with Kirk Cousins? Was it a mistake for the Vikings to give him the money they did? Is he holding them back? Can they win big with him at quarterback?
Chris: I think that the Vikings made the best decision that they could have made at that time. You can quibble over the monetary figure that Cousins got, but if you look at the other possible options that were available to them at the time, I think they made the best decision. Case Keenum stunk it up in Denver, and is in the process of stinking it up in Washington. Sam Bradford isn’t even in the league anymore. Teddy Bridgewater is winning in New Orleans, at least so far, but he’s not exactly lighting it up, either. The Vikings gave Cousins a ton of money, but that’s just the nature of how things are in the National Football League. . .you either develop a quarterback or you pay for one. The Vikings were developing on with Bridgewater until his injury, but because of it they had to go down the other road.
That said, I think that the Vikings can win with Kirk Cousins. But something has changed with the guy, and he needs to be rescued before he’s too far into his own head to do anything at all. Yes, the Vikings’ offensive line is still a liability in pass blocking, but in the early stages of last year Cousins was throwing the ball all over the place and was actually one of the league’s best quarterbacks under pressure in the first half of the year. But, at some point, something changed. I don’t know what changed or why it changed or how it changed, but something changed. If Cousins can get back to being the more decisive quarterback he was in the early part of 2018, this team can be a serious contender. At this point, however, that’s a big “if.”
Ed: There are a ton of guys with “Pro Bowl” on their resume on the Minnesota defense. Who, though, are really the one or two defenders who are most important to that group?
Chris: The most important member of the Minnesota defense, at least in my opinion, is Harrison Smith, and that’s been the case for some time. There are very few safeties in the NFL that I would take over #22 right now, and his ability to do so many different things allows the rest of the Vikings’ defense to be more creative. Whether it’s coverage, run stopping, blitzing, or whatever else, Harrison Smith can pretty much do it all. For this season, I can’t overstate the importance of having the “real” Everson Griffen back. He was one of the best pass rushers in the league in 2017, and missed a chunk of 2018 with some personal issues that he was dealing with. Through the first four games of this season, he appears to be back to his 2017 form, and along with Danielle Hunter is making life miserable for quarterbacks that face the Vikings.
Ed: Are there any young players on the Minnesota roster we really might not know much about but should be aware of of Sunday?
Chris: I would have to go with defensive back Jayron Kearse. Kearse was a seventh-round pick of the Vikings in 2016, and has clawed his way up the roster over the years, starting out on special teams and gradually making his way into the defense. He has the ability to play both nickel corner and safety, and his size gives him a unique ability to be on the field in a number of different matchup situations for opponents. If Mackensie Alexander and/or Anthony Harris are unable to go on Sunday, the Giants are going to get to see a lot of Kearse. If his first four games of this season are any indication, he will be ready to deliver.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster NOT NAMED SAQUON BARKLEY and put him in Minnesota’s starting lineup who would it be? Why?
Chris: I’ll tell you, as much as Vikings fans hate him after his time in Detroit, I’m going to go with receiver Golden Tate. Yes, I know that the Vikings already have a great wide receiver duo and the addition of Tate might be a bit excessive, but Tate would give the Vikings an outstanding #3 receiver and slot option to go with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. He seems like the kind of guy that you’d love to have on your own team but would hate to play against. I know I hate seeing him out there against the Vikings, because we always seem to have difficulty with him. I’m not sure how much that means for Sunday when he makes his 2019 debut, but hopefully we can keep him under wraps.
Ed: The Vikings win Sunday if? The Giants win Sunday if?
Chris: The Vikings win if Kirk Cousins can get his head back in the game and provide the offense with some balance. The “run the ball 70 percent of the time” offense the Vikings have used .... with varying success ... in the first four weeks of this season is fine if Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison get going. If they don’t, as Adam Thielen said earlier this week, you need to be able to throw the football. We know that Cousins has done it before, but he needs to get back to where he was, as I talked about in the previous question.
The Giants win if the Vikings can’t find a way to get to young Daniel Jones and he’s allowed to extend plays and make conversions when the Giants need them. With no Saquon Barkley for the Giants again, the Vikings will likely be going all-out to stop the pass, and the Vikings’ front seven will hopefully be making Jones’ third NFL start the worst one he’s had so far. The Vikings’ defense has remained solid despite the struggles of the offense, and if they can limit the Giants offensively, they should be able to escape from New York with a victory.