EAGAN, Minn. — Pete Bercich is a big fan of the Vikings offseason moves.
The former Vikings linebacker and linebackers coach, who is now the game day color analyst on the Vikings Radio Network, recently joined Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall on his 'Wobcast' to chat about a busy week in Minnesota.
Bercich covered all of the Vikings recent additions, but started with the big prize in quarterback Kirk Cousins. Minnesota **inked Cousins to a three-year contract** this past Thursday.
Although Bercich has seen Cousins in person the past two seasons when Minnesota and Washington met on the field, the former Notre Dame standout said he was even more impressed when he broke down the quarterback's play on film.
Bercich noted Cousins does subtle things that help lead to his success.
"We've seen him once a year the last couple of years, and you saw what he could do, so I was excited when we heard about it," Bercich said. "Seeing the film … it goes up a whole 'nother level because this guy can reads and make throws. So much of what a quarterback does, and people stop and wonder, you have four or five kids come out of college every year that are physically gifted enough to be unbelievable quarterbacks, but just a fraction of them make it.
"You watch the film, and you see the little bitty things that he does, turns his back on the defense, gets his head around, quick shoulder nod one way, because he's moving the safeties where he wants them to go, and he's going to put the ball where they vacate," Bercich added. "That's the art of playing quarterback, and not everybody can master it. You have to be tall enough, big enough and have enough arm strength. On top of all of that, you've got to be maniacal in the way you study film and learn how to manipulate a defense. He's done all of that."
Bercich added that he thinks the tandem of Cousins and Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo will be a successful one.
"The ability to get the ball out on time and on target, hitting something that's running from your right to your left," Bercich said. "[The] playbook will be open. [DeFilippo will] be able to do more with a veteran than a young guy."
Cousins, a former fourth-round pick in 2012 out of Michigan State, threw for 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns while compiling a passer rating of 97.6 in the past three seasons as Washington's starter.
He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the previous three seasons.
Bercich said he doesn't think Cousins "has what you would consider a quote, unquote 'glaring weakness,' " and noted that Cousins will simply need to be efficient for the Vikings to be at their best.
"You take a step back, and there are interceptions where it might hit the receiver in the hands or the ball gets tipped. Those things are going to happen. It's the bad decisions you want to get away from," Bercich said on the Wobcast. "When quarterbacks get into that mode, it's usually when they are in catch-up mode. It's not like our offense is going to be conservative. It's just you have to be mindful, that if it's not there, throw it away.
"I don't think it's going to limit the offense in its explosiveness, but he's got to be careful not to force things," Bercich added. "It's not as if you can't throw a ball away and punt because our defense is one of the best things we have, so that may be a little tweak in mentality."
Speaking of defense
While Cousins is expected to boost Minnesota's offense, the Vikings beefed up their defense with the signing of Sheldon Richardson.
The defensive tackle was originally drafted by the Jets with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Richardson spent the past season with the Seahawks.
He has started 70 of 73 career games played in five seasons, including 15 with Seattle when he had 44 tackles (27 solo), a sack, one pass defensed, two fumble recoveries and his first career interception.
Bercich said he believes Richardson will slide in seamlessly on the defensive line next to Linval Joseph.
"Going back to the tape, you look at the whole being greater than the sum of the parts," Bercich said. "You have Sheldon Richardson, who is going to play next to a Linval Joseph. You have a center and two guards, you're going to be able to double-team one, pick your poison. You're going to have one of those guys with a 1-on-1 with a guard all day long.
"What it's going to mean for [linebackers Eric] Kendricks and [Anthony] Barr, with the offense having to double team and stay on double teams. It's going to give them a lot of headaches," Bercich added. "His height, weight and speed are requisite of a first-round pick, but he also has power. He works super hard, but he's also smart and knows when screens are coming, is able to read blocks and do the little things."
Bercich said Richardson will be a welcome addition to a defense that ranked first in the NFL in yards and points allowed in 2017 while also setting a league record for the top third-down defense.
"We look for all of the little bitty things that he can do, the way he can run stunts," Bercich said. "He's going to have to be accounted for."
The return of Cook
Minnesota will get an important piece back in 2018 with the return of running back Dalvin Cook, who missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL.
Cook ran for 354 yards [averaging 4.8 yards per attempt] and two scores in three-plus games before going down in Week 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"What surprised me about him, was his ability as a rookie to kind of do everything," Bercich said on the Wobcast. "It's not as if he was a good third-down scatback and could pass protect but is not the guy you want to give the ball to on first-and-goal from the 2.
"He kind of can do everything, and he did everything well," Bercich added. "That's going to help him, too, because you can't see him in the backfield and just think run."
Cook has been rehabbing at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan. Vikings players are scheduled to begin the voluntary offseason program in mid-April.