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Lunchbreak: Kirk Cousins Lands in 'Tier 2' of The Athletic's Annual QB Rankings

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Training Camp presented by Omni Viking Lakes Hotel featured players donning pads for the first time this season on Monday.

With preseason football only a few days away, The Athletic's Mike Sando released his annual "NFL Quarterback Tiers." For the second time in eight years, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins landed in Tier 2. However, Cousins was the last Tier 2 quarterback and ranked 12th overall. He was slotted below Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford despite playing in 11 more games than Watson and throwing for 2,460 more yards than Stafford in 2022.

Sando highlighted Cousins' knack for comebacks last season:

Cousins dropped off statistically last season from his 2019-21 pace, but the Vikings went 11-0 in one-score games. Cousins led the NFL with eight fourth-quarter comeback victories and eight game-winning drives, according to Pro Football Reference. He never had more than four of either in a season previously.

Sando's exercise features 50 league insiders who placed 30 veteran quarterbacks into tiers. One NFL execute said, "People have him down in Tier 3 and I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no."

Click here to read Sando's full piece.

View photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith at training camp from over the years.

Star Tribune spotlights Harrison Smith's decision to return

Vikings safety Harrison Smith, 34, is back for a 12th season in the NFL after taking a paycut to remain in Purple.

The Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins spotlighted Smith’s decision-making, as well as his outlook on the 2023 Vikings defense under new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.

Scoggins wrote:

He looked and considered a few select teams. Nothing too serious, he said. He tried to take emotion out of his deliberations, as best he could, and not consider how rare it is for any long-tenured veteran to play for one team for an entire career.

"It didn't make sense to me to go somewhere," he said. "I'd rather just stop."

Though he was complimentary of former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Smith acknowledged that his style of play wasn't an ideal fit for Donatell's scheme. The way that Donatell used Smith in his one season certainly was head-scratching.

Smith blitzed only 14 times, the second-lowest total in his career, according to Pro Football Focus. Smith never blitzed fewer than 35 times in a season under Mike Zimmer.

Enter new coordinator Brian Flores, who is known for being creative and aggressive. Those traits align with Smith's strengths. The opportunity to play for Flores was a "big part" of his decision to return.

"[Donatell's] scheme is very popular around the league, but it's probably not my style in general, where Flo's probably more is," Smith said. "And not exactly in the way that maybe you saw with Zim. It's fun to learn different ways to do things."