The Minnesota Vikings are sitting at 1-5 and most fans have already given up on their chances of competing this season. While dreaming of a high 2021 draft pick and a sexy young quarterback is easy to do, Minnesota still has 10 games left this season. Their chances of making the playoffs may be slim, but there are some things they can do on the field to turn their season around.
Consistency from the cornerbacks
One thing that has to change in order for the Vikings to get back on track is getting some consistent play out of their cornerbacks every week. They don’t even have to play at a high level, they just need be good enough where they aren’t allowing huge plays down the field for opposing offenses every single week.
That’s been the problem with the Vikings’ corners this season, they’ve been good one week and then horrible the next. Sometimes they’re good one series and then bad the next. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler have both had moments on the field where they make impressive plays and give the team hope for the future. Just when the coaching staff and the fans think these young players are turning the corner, they go out and have a game like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, giving huge cushions to their receivers and not even being in the vicinity of them when the ball is delivered.
These young cover men should get better as the season continues on. If they can level out their play and begin to eliminate some of their costly mistakes, that will be a huge boost to the Vikings’ defense.
Ride Dalvin Cook
When the Vikings have been the most competitive this season, they’ve fed Dalvin Cook the ball. In the one-point loss to the Tennessee Titans, he carried the ball 22 times for 181 yards. In the win over the Houston Texans, he racked up 130 yards on 27 carries. And in the one-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Cook was again on a tear with 65 yards on 17 carries before getting hurt in the third quarter. The Vikings are simply a better team when he gets about 20 touches a game.
The entire offense flows through Cook. Not only does he add an explosive element to the Vikings’ offense, but he opens up the play-action pass for Kirk Cousins. He also is that special player who can create gains out of plays that look like they aren’t going anywhere.
An added bonus to feeding Cook is that a successful ground game keeps the chains moving and takes time off the clock. Extending drives will keep the Vikings’ porous defense off the field, and that is a good thing if this team wants to start winning games. Cook is the key for the Vikings if they want to get on a winning streak and salvage their season. The biggest question at this point is if his groin injury is going to keep this from becoming a reality.
Generate a pass rush
The Vikings’ lack of a pass rush this season has been unexpected and is culpable for a few of their losses. In the opener against the Packers, Minnesota couldn’t get a sniff of Aaron Rodgers, and things weren’t much better against the Indianapolis Colts a week later. Statistically speaking, the Vikings fall right about in the middle of the league when it comes to sacks on the season, but it’s easy to see that the typical Mike Zimmer pass rush is missing.
The struggle for the last 10 games is going to be how to improve this area after trading Yannick Ngakoue, who was leading the team with five sacks. Ifeadi Odenigbo will continue to be the left end, and the right side could very well be a combination of Jalyn Holmes and rookie D.J. Wonnum. Zimmer is going to have to get very creative and bring safeties, corners and linebackers to get to the quarterback. If the Vikings can get more pressure on quarterbacks in their last 10 games than they were able to in the first six, they could start to get some victories and get back to contending for the NFC North crown.
Get the ball to Jefferson
Justin Jefferson has been a bright spot. This kid has racked up well over 500 receiving yards with three touchdowns. He is having the best rookie season for a Vikings receiver since Percy Harvin, and he soon will be pushing Randy Moss‘ impressive debut numbers. He looks to be a surefire star for years to come.
If the Vikings want to get back on track, they need to keep throwing him the ball. For whatever reason, Kubiak failed to utilize this talent through the first couple of games, and the Vikings weren’t even close to competing in those contests. Since then, they’ve been competitive in just about every game. But even in the collapse against the Falcons, Jefferson continued to produce.
Jefferson already has a 71-yard touchdown to his name. The Vikings did well in choosing this young pass catcher with their first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, and if they want to start getting some wins, they need to keep throwing him the football.