The Minnesota Vikings closed out their winless preseason in Kansas City on Friday night in what could be seen as a sloppy August. The Vikings’ offense ended up scoring as many touchdowns over three games as their defense. Further, Minnesota’s offense didn’t register a single passing touchdown, just two runs from rookie RB A.J. Rose Jr.
So, is it time to be worried?
A year ago, the Vikings boasted one of the better offenses in the league, finishing 2020 fourth in yards per game and 11th in points per game. Minnesota brought back most of its starters but had a few new faces along the offensive line. The biggest change, however, was the new coordinator.
After 2020, Gary Kubiak announced his retirement, paving the way for the Vikings to have their sixth new offensive coordinator in the last six seasons. To maintain some continuity, Minnesota ended up promoting Klint Kubiak, Gary’s son, from within.
Kubiak is a 34-year-old coach who worked his way up through Minnesota’s organization long before his father was hired by the Vikings in 2019. However, after a couple of seasons of Kyle Sloter lighting up the third-team in the preseason, Vikings’ fans aren’t quite used to the bleakness that Minnesota’s offense has displayed, raising the question of whether or not Kubiak is the right man for the job.
For a team ostensibly in win-now mode, the Vikings don’t have a lot of room for error.
Minnesota’s preseason offense seemed as vanilla as can be. With runs on second down and not as much play-action as seen in the regular season, the offense struggled to move the ball at all. To put this into perspective, they converted just 4-of-27 third downs in the last two games combined.
Part of this is due to the quarterback struggles. Jake Browning and Kellen Mond are vying for the backup job and neither has been particularly good, though Mond showed more promise at the end of the preseason.
However, it’s important to note that Cousins hasn’t been particularly sharp either. Versus Kansas City, Cousins completed 8-of-10 passes for a meager 80 yards, checking down frequently. While he didn’t have his top-three playmakers, Cousins rarely looked in the direction of the starting receivers K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
With all three quarterbacks not faring particularly well and the Vikings’ offense struggling to move the ball — let alone score points — the Klint Kubiak concern seems valid. How much of the Vikings’ offensive concern stems from their play-calling?
Let’s look at the Vikings’ first-team offense. They played a total of three drives. During the first drive, they were able to move the ball with ease. Completions to various running backs and Irv Smith Jr. took them down the field, only to settle for a field goal after a couple of red-zone pass breakups (again, without their trio of offensive studs).
The second drive ended quickly due to a penalty that pushed them back 10 yards, and the third drive stalled because the team was unable to convert a third-and-short.
While the Vikings have been sitting a bunch of their stars during the preseason — guys like Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Dede Westbrook, etc. — it’s important to note that the other teams have been as well.
Further, even though the Vikings’ receiver depth beyond Thielen and Jefferson is much improved by the additions of Westbrook and Smith-Marsette and the sudden breakout of Osborn, the latter receivers have played with the first team as the pair of All-Pros sit out the preseason.
Essentially, this means everyone gets pushed up a tier. Now the Vikings have guys like Whop Philyor and Myron Mitchell playing above their station, and they struggle to get open. Pair that with faltering backup quarterbacks and it’s a recipe for disaster.
It is also important to note that Kubiak, as a rookie offensive coordinator, is still learning what suits him best. In the games versus the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, Kubiak called plays from the sidelines, but versus the Chiefs, he sat up in the booth, much like his father did with his lone season as Vikings’ offensive coordinator.
As of right now, there isn’t a reason to worry about the Vikings’ offense. In 2020, Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen combined for 68% of their offensive production. They played a total of four snaps in the preseason.
The Vikings open their season on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. If Minnesota lays an egg against them, a team they should be freely scoring on, all the tension from the preseason will come rushing back.
But that’s for September. As of August 2021, the sample sizes are too small to conclude that the offense is set up for failure.