Archive for the ‘Dalvin Cook’ Category

Last year, the Vikings got shredded in the NFC Championship Game by the now-world championship Philadelphia Eagles, finishing the season 13-3 while handily winning the NFC North. On the plus side, they finished far better than the Sporting News predicted. They predicted that Detroit and Green Bay would both finish 11-5, with the Vikings finishing 8-8 and the Bears finishing 3-13. predicted that the Lions would win the NFC North. It wasn’t just that they predicted this outcome.

It’s what they didn’t say, writing “Admittedly, this is a tough sell. Predicting the Lions will win a division they haven’t ever won (the NFC North was formed in 2002) already feels shaky after two sentences. Yet, there are reasons to think Detroit could pull off beating out Green Bay for the top spot. Start with addition by subtraction, as the Lions signed former Packer guard T.J. Lang in free agency. General manager Bob Quinn further bolstered the offensive line by adding tackle Ricky Wagner. Each should help running back Ameer Abdullah stay on course. Abdullah merely needs to stay healthy. This team was on its way toward winning the NFC North last year until Matthew Stafford injured his middle finger. How many teams can survive their starter hurting his throwing hand in the midst of a playoff run? No major injuries and no Hail Marys might mean an end to the days of merely sneaking into the postseason.”

They didn’t even mention the Vikings. (That’s the definition of a snub.)

Going into the 2018 season, everyone will have their eyes on the Vikings. Kirk Cousins is their starting QB. For the first time in his career, he’ll play behind a rock-solid O-Line. For the first time in his career, he’ll have a plethora of weapons to attack with. Never has he had the opportunity to throw to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook. Never has he had a running game featuring Dalvin Cook.

With this collection of weapons, though, comes high expectations. Winning the NFC North is a worthy goal but it isn’t the only expectation. Paying $84,000,000 guaranteed over 3 years gives the Vikings the reasonable expectation of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at least once in those 3 years.

The only thing you can say about the Vikings’ season opener is that they dominated the New Orleans Saints in every facet of the game. Sam Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards. (That’s an 84.4% completion percentage and a QB rating of 143.) Stefon Diggs caught 7 passes, including 2 for touchdowns, worth 93 yards. What’s frightening is that he wasn’t the best wideout on the field for the Vikings. That was Adam Thielen. Thielen walked on at D-3 Minnesota State, Mankato. Then he wasn’t drafted so he tried out for the Vikings. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Tonight, Thielen caught 9 passes worth 157 yards.

Rumor has it that former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was in the house tonight. Rumor also has it that future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees was in the house tonight, too. Adrian’s first run was his longest of the night. It was for 9 yards. Brees played valiantly but it wasn’t nearly enough. He didn’t throw for a touchdown until New Orleans had all but officially lost.

The national media played up the Adrian Peterson vs. Dalvin Cook matchup. That wasn’t fair … to Adrian. While Adrian rushed for 18 yards on 6 carries, Dalvin Cook ran the ball 22 times for 127 yards, including a 33-yard run on third-and-7 that sealed the game:

The other major story from tonight’s season opener was the Vikings’ offensive line play. They protected Sam Bradford. They opened holes for Dalvin Cook. You know the line is playing well when the QB completes 85% of his passes and 8 of those completions were for more than 20 yards. The Vikings ran the ball 28 times and averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry. There were lots of Vikings fans that worried how they’d play. I’m one of them.

The offensive line had 5 new starters. Berger moved from center to right guard to make room for Ohio State rookie Pat Elflein. It’s easy to see why the Vikings traded up in this year’s draft to pick him. That kid’s got lots of Pro Bowls in his future. The free agent tackles played well at times, though Remmers still had some unsteady moments. LT Riley Rieff played a strong game.

The thing that’s obvious is that this unit is significantly more athletic than any offensive line during the Zimmer era. During the game, they flashed a graphic that said tonight’s opening game was the first time those 5 players played together. It certainly didn’t look that way.

Notice what I haven’t mentioned thus far. I haven’t mentioned the Vikings defense. That isn’t because they didn’t play well. There’s no denying that Brees was fairly productive. He threw for 273 yards and a late touchdown. Everson Griffen got the Vikings only sack of the night. That doesn’t come close to telling the story, though. The Vikings’ secondary contested every throw Brees made. The defensive line surrounded Brees much of the night. Brees felt claustrophobic all night, like he was throwing from inside a phone booth.

Next up for the Vikings are the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Let the trash-talking begin.

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