The Vikings had a great team in 2017. In 2018, they're aiming to be even better. To achieve that goal, the Vikings are bringing back most of their playmakers from last season and also enlisting the help of a few new faces to help get the franchise over the hump.
Here's a look at a few of those new faces in prominent roles and how they might be able to make a difference in 2018.
Cousins was the crown jewel of the 2018 free agent class, and now he's the signal caller for a Vikings offense that features a lot of talent. His job includes drawing a delicate balance on two fronts. First, to bring his own unique set of skills to a new offense in difference-making fashion but to also blend in seamlessly with an already talented and successful group of skill position players. Secondly, to move the ball and score points but to not do so at the expense of ball security and good field position, two factors that play perfectly into the Vikings identity – a dominant defense.
A season ago, DeFilippo was part of an offensive staff that had to solve Mike Zimmer's defense in the NFC title game. Now, DeFilippo is tasked with coordinating an offense that will complement and perhaps enhance that stingy Vikings defense. His responsibility is similar to Cousins' in that it consists of a delicate balance of bringing new ideas to an already pretty good group. What will this offense look like exactly? Hard to say, for certain, but quarterback mobility, featuring the tight end position and aggressive, sophisticated design are some of the anticipated elements.
Every week in this League we see games come down to a kick. The Vikings were on the wrong end of a clutch field goal attempt in their 2015 playoff appearance but they were on the right end of that type of moment against the New Orleans Saints in last year's Divisional Round playoff. When they find themselves in need of a clutch kick now, it'll be Carlson in the spotlight. The rookie has impressed since being selected in April, save for two missed field goals in the team's third preseason game. The good news is Carlson bounced back in the preseason finale, he has a big leg and plenty of experiences with clutch moments during his college days at Auburn.
The Vikings have four former 1st-round picks in their secondary. The latest is Hughes, a fast and instinctive playmaker who can help as a returner as well as on defense. Hughes trained at both outside cornerback and nickel this spring and summer, and garnered rave reviews from his head coach. Whether he's the future at nickel or on the outside, Hughes looks poised to be a difference-maker for the Vikings in 2018.
One of the more intriguing additions to the Vikings, Iloka comes to Minnesota with institutional knowledge of Zimmer's schemes and styles from their days together in Cincinnati. Iloka's combination of athleticism, size and working knowledge of the defense make him a valuable chess piece for Zimmer when it comes to matchups, defending the run, playing with three safeties and bowing up in the red zone and in goal-line situations.
The Vikings had one of the best defensive lines in 2017, and they upgraded at a key spot for 2018 by signing Richardson to play three technique. If Richardson is given one-on-one opportunities against offensive guards due to the attention commanded by his fellow starters along the defensive line, his quickness could make life difficult for opposing offenses. Knifing in to make run stops in the backfield and forcing quarterbacks off their cushy spots in the pocket should be Richardson's specialty in the Vikings defense.