The Minnesota Vikings have looked non-competitive in their first two games of the 2020 season. They can’t move the ball on offense, and they can’t stop anyone on defense. The surprisingly abysmal start has many fans are already looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft and the high pick the Vikings seem destined for.
But before you start flipping through mock drafts, let’s slow down and look for some positives that came out of the Week 2 game and see if there are some silver linings the team can build off of:
There was some pass rush this week
A glaring absence from the Week 1 loss to the Packers was the Vikings failure to put any sort of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had all day to sit in the pocket, roll to his right, scan the field and pick apart the Vikings’ inexperienced secondary. Week 2 saw some improvement in this area. Philip Rivers isn’t half as mobile as Rodgers, and that helped, but the team was able to get some heat on him even going against a much better offensive line.
Yannick Ngakoue led the way with a strip-sack that the Colts were able to recover. The Vikings needed Ngakoue to step up, and he did in Week 2. Unfortunately the team wasn’t able to capitalize on his big play, and it wasn’t enough to light a fire under the rest of the team because the offense got the ball back and immediately went three and out. When the defense got back on the field, they lost any sort of momentum that was gained by Ngakoue’s energetic play, and Indianapolis continued to move the ball on them. While the Vikings still have a long ways to go in the pass-rushing department, seeing this area improve from Week 1 to Week 2 was encouraging.
Gladney looked pretty good
Cameron Dantzler‘s injury opened the door for their first-round pick Jeff Gladney. He was on the field for 60 snaps, over 80% of the defensive plays, and played fairly well. Sure, he had some mental lapses and drew a penalty, but he was on his man pretty tightly throughout the game, and Zimmer had to be happy with his coverage and technique. Gladney was able to rack up six tackles in the contest and looks like a complete corner who will be an asset in both stopping the run and in coverage.
As a whole, the corners actually played better in Week 2. While some of this was because they didn’t have to cover a wide receiver like Davante Adams, they were able to hold the Colts receivers to under 100 yards — a positive they can take away from their dismal 0-2 start.
The biggest positive to come out of Week 2 for the Vikings defense is the experience Gladney got in this game. He was thrown into the fire and held his own for the most part. He can improve his technique and polish up his coverage skills by studying the film and can be even better this week against the Titans.
Cook isn’t being shut down
The Minnesota Vikings’ offense was expected to go through Dalvin Cook this season. They lived and died by the running a game a season ago, and with Gary Kubiak now in charge of the offense many figured they’d tote the rock even more in 2020. But the opposite has happened so far this year: Through two games Cook has carried the ball just 26 times for 113 yards. It’s unclear why Kubiak has failed to commit to the run game and why his offensive play calling has lacked balance this season.
The silver lining to this is that it’s not like Cook is getting stopped, he’s just being grossly underused. He’s averaging almost 4.5 yards per carry and has found plenty of success on the ground. To get a good feel for how much he is being underused, we can look at Cook’s numbers from the first two games in 2019. He had 41 attempts for 265 yards and three touchdowns. That’s 15 more attempts, and the result of those extra carries is a much more potent running game and an offense that could actually keep drives going and put points on the board. Kubiak needs to look at these numbers and come to the obvious conclusion: Feed Cook.
there’s still plenty of talent on this roster
There’s no denying that through two weeks of the 2020 season, the Minnesota Vikings are one of the worst teams in the NFL. They can’t protect the quarterback, they can’t stop the run, they can’t pressure the quarterback, and they have a group of cornerbacks who struggle to cover receivers. It’s been a disaster. But as bad as they’ve been and are, there is hope that they can turn this thing around because of the overall talent on this roster.
They have one of the best running backs in the game in Cook, a great receiver in Thielen and a quarterback who is better than what he’s shown in Cousins. The Vikings also have a couple of talented tight ends in Rudolph and Smith Jr., and an exciting rookie receiver in Justin Jefferson. On defense, they have arguably the best safety duo in the NFL in Smith and Harris, and one of the best middle linebackers in Eric Kendricks. They also might get Danielle Hunter back in a couple of weeks, and that will give this defensive line a much-needed boost.
From a talent standpoint alone, this is still a very good roster — its just one that needs to figure some things out. If they can do that, they can still salvage the season and perhaps contend for a playoff spot.