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Kirk Cousins Impressed with Vikings Newcomers, Brian Flores' Defense

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins can relate to how rigorous learning a new NFL system is.

On Wednesday, the 12-year veteran quarterback referenced his time as a rookie or his first year in Minnesota when asked how rookie receiver Jordan Addison is absorbing the playbook.

"You want to let him know that any challenges you feel with the playbook or even outside of football, moving to a new city, we've all been there before. We all deal with them, so, 'Don't feel that you're different or you're inadequate. You're just fine,' and he's handled it well," Cousins said. "I've kind of always been surprised at how well the rookies transition because whether it was me getting drafted or me coming here in free agency, I feel like it took me a lot longer to learn everything."

Cousins commended Addison for quickly learning the offense considering the team is throwing "complex" run rules, motions and routes at him.

The Vikings are less than two weeks into training camp. Addison is understandably adjusting to Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's nuanced offense. But Cousins is optimistic the first-round pick will become a consistent contributor.

"He's handled it really well and shown his athleticism and ability as a receiver," Cousins said. "He's a natural catcher of the football, tracks the ball well, so I'm excited about continuing to do more with him and get him involved."

Tight end Josh Oliver is another new addition who has impressed Cousins. The team signed Oliver to bolster its run game while remaining explosive through the air.

Oliver spent the past two seasons with the Ravens before joining the Vikings as a free agent. He caught 14 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns last season while playing 47 percent of Baltimore's offensive snaps.

"He helps us a lot with the run game. He helps us a lot with pass protection. He helps us a lot down the field with his speed catching the football. He's a big target," Cousins said. "It gives us versatility in what we can call and the threat we can be to a defense with him on the field."

Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips credits Cousins for how far along the offense is compared to last year's training camp. Rather than learning a new system again, Cousins serves as an extension for O'Connell and Phillips.

There will always be growing pains, but Phillips said Cousins is more comfortable dealing with the team's offensive subtleties.

"I did have a chance to look back at last year's training camp at this time. And I felt a lot better about where we were. And I know Kirk feels the same way," Phillips said. "There's so many little details and nuances to an offense, to a system, things that aren't listed in a playbook that you just can't read until those things kind of happen, and he's been able to experience a full year in this offense. And then the offseason being here was also big. We're still trying to evolve. But Kirk's kind of leading the charge there."

Here are three other highlights from Cousins' and Phillips' media sessions.

1. Keeping it light at training camp

Cousins turned heads at Tuesday's practice before it started by wearing an oversized No. 66 jersey rather than his usual No. 8.

It was all in good fun, Cousins said.

"I had not looked at myself in the mirror until post-practice. And I saw myself on film. And I thought, 'That was more egregious than I even realized.' I knew it felt big. I knew it was 66. But it was big. And it was an ugly number. So that's probably the first and last time."

The comprehensive nature of training camp pushes Cousins to "keep it light" when he can. Cousins said he prioritizes humor as a relief for him and his teammates.

"I try to come out here with energy, cracking jokes, maybe to a fault. Sometimes I'll tell Nick Mullens like, 'Hey, if I'm if I'm being too much of a goofball, you just let me know.' But I'm going to keep cracking jokes and having a good time with it. You know, it's training camp. So for me, I need something every few days to change up the script just to have fun with it."

2. Facing Flores' defense

Vikings offensive players have been raving about facing Brian Flores' defense. After six total practices (two in full pads), Cousins described the challenges posed by the revamped defense.

"The defense has really been the curveball of camp for me. … I've obviously been through NFL training camps. A lot of this is repeated as opposed to the first time, but going against Coach Flores' defense is a first-time deal," Cousins said. "So, 'How are we going to handle these pressures? How are we going to handle these fronts? How are we protecting?' I've been wearing out my quarterback coach in meetings, asking questions."

Cousins detailed the irony of competing against the same defense for a month straight, only never to face that unit because it's his own. It is unique from what Minnesota is expected to see from 2023 opponents. Regardless, Cousins extrapolates what he can from facing Flores' exotic looks and pressures.

"Some of the general protection rules will apply. I think the final coverage shell and certain plays will apply," Cousins said. "How they get to those shells will probably differ. So I think if anything, you're gonna probably feel more comfortable with pressure looks knowing that you've dealt with them quite a bit in camp, and they can come at any moment."

View photos of players during 2023 Vikings Training Camp practice on August 1 at the TCO Performance Center.

3. Good news on Trishton Jackson

The Vikings also think they received some good news on the prognosis for receiver Trishton Jackson, who left Tuesday's practice via medical cart after hurting his right knee in a 1-on-1 practice drill.

The injury initially appeared severe, but Phillips said it looks like Jackson "avoided anything serious."

"No ligament damage there, so that was really encouraging for all of us, including Trishton," Phillips said. "Kevin might be able to provide some more details tomorrow, but you know, he's sore, but looks like he's gonna be OK."