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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Analyzes Each Vikings Position Group at the Bye

The Vikings are officially on their bye week, as players and coaches have scattered from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Chad Graff of The Athletic took a position-by-position look at Minnesota, which has landed at a 3-3 record at the break.

Graff handed out letter grades to 10 different positions (including coaching), and also doled out an overall grade for the Vikings.

Graff's top mark went to Minnesota's wide receivers group, which received an 'A' grade through six games.

He wrote:

There's not much to nitpick here. Adam Thielen remains an incredible red zone threat and is still capable of huge games. Justin Jefferson is outstanding and should probably get more targets. He ranks sixth in the league in yards, and there's no reason that can't improve. And K.J. Osborn has quickly become the Vikings best No. 3 wide receiver in five years. Is the depth great behind them? Probably not.

But that doesn't matter since the Vikings finally have three good options and an offense that uses three wide receivers at the same time.

Jefferson leads the Vikings with 41 catches for 542 yards, while Thielen has 37 receptions for 393 yards and a team-high five scores. Osborn has a pair of touchdown catches, including Sunday's walk-off winner in Carolina, and he has emerged as the clear No. 3 wide receiver in the Vikings offense.

Graff also gave high marks at quarterback and along the defensive line, as both received an 'A-' grade.

He wrote:

As is always the case with Kirk Cousins, there's no consensus about how he's played. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the No. 3 quarterback in the league. Advanced stats have him lower, like the metric of expected points added plus completion percentage above expected, which ranks Cousins No. 14. Perhaps that's fitting since it's never easy to get a unanimous opinion on Cousins.

But I think it's fair to say that he's off to his best start since joining the Vikings. The stats are one thing, and we'll get to them. But Cousins has been relied on several times this season to orchestrate game-winning drives and has continually put the Vikings in a position to win, an area at which he used to struggle. He gets major points for that.

Cousins has thrown for 1,769 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Minnesota's defensive line, meanwhile, also earned praise from Graff.

It's amazing watching Vikings games now and thinking back to last year when they may have had the worst front four in the league. Now, Danielle Hunter is back to ravaging offensive lines, Everson Griffen looks like his former self, Dalvin Tomlinson has been just what the Vikings hoped and both Michael Pierce and Armon Watts have performed well.

While those position groups were the three highest from Graff, the two lowest came on special teams (a 'D' grade) and coaching, which received a 'C-' grade.

Graff opined that he lowered the latter grade because he believes Minnesota is too conservative at times.

Optimists may look at the revamped defense — which has played four straight very good games and is becoming one of the best units in the league — as well as an offense that ranks fifth in yards per game and wonder why this grade is so low.

But they lose points for ultraconservative moments that have led to multiple contests coming down to the final few minutes when they didn't need to. And while the offense puts up yards, it ranks No. 14 in points per game and too often goes three and out. For that reason, the grade gets dinged.

As for Graff's overall grade on the Vikings, he gave the team a 'C+' after a six-game stretch that has included a bit of everything, including heartbreaking losses and thrilling wins.

Graff's full slate of bye-week grades can be found here.

View the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" as the team defeated the Panthers in overtime of Week 6 at Bank of America Stadium.

Carr: Cousins 'reaching new heights' so far in 2021

While Cousins received a strong grade from Graff, he also recently received praise from former NFL quarterback David Carr.

Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, is now an analyst at He recently highlighted three quarterbacks who are 'reaching new heights' so far this season and included Minnesota's starter in that group.

Carr opined that a familiarity with the scheme and coaches has played a role.

He wrote:

Cousins is enjoying one of the best seasons of his 10-year career — and I think it's safe to say the continuity of Minnesota's offensive scheme has a lot to do with this. He's been in this offense, which is predicated around a productive run game behind a zone-blocking scheme that ultimately sets up play-action, bootlegs and screens, since his days in Washington with Kyle Shanahan in 2012 and '13. I'm sure Cousins is comfortable running the offense and likely has more say this season than he has before, given that he's working with a first-year offensive coordinator in Klint Kubiak.

This offense simply makes life easier for quarterbacks, as I know from my days running it with Gary Kubiak (Klint's dad) in Houston. After my first season in the system, Gary told me he should've given me more freedom within the offense, that he should have added wrinkles or plays that catered to my strengths. We're seeing Cousins build off the foundation of this offense and thrive at the position with the help of a dynamic rushing duo (Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison) and a pair of receivers that demand defensive attention (Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson).

Carr noted that one stat the jumps out to him is that Cousins has recorded at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in five of his past eight games, including the end of the 2020 season.

Cousins did indeed have such games against New Orleans and Detroit to close out the 2020 season, and has done so against Arizona, Seattle and Carolina so far in 2021.

Carr's other two quarterbacks that highlighted were his brother — Derek Carr of the Raiders — along with Dak Prescott with the Cowboys.

Minnesota hosts Dallas on Sunday Night Football in Week 8. Both teams are on a bye this week.