EAGAN, Minn. – Home sweet home, or at least closer now than mid-March.
Kirk Cousins has experienced a whirlwind of transition in the three months since signing with the Vikings and moving his family to Minnesota. And while it likely will take a while before everything has entirely stopped spinning, he feels right at home at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Cousins told Vikings.com’s Mike Wobschall that the team’s new headquarters is a “sanctuary” for him.
“I mean, in addition to it being so nice and so world-class, it became a place for me over the past nine weeks where I could come to know, ‘As much as things have changed and are different, my family’s moving – when I’m here, I’m in football, and that’s what I know and that’s what I do,’ ” Cousins said. “I really love coming in here and can’t wait to put more hours in.”
The quarterback recently completed Organized Team Activity and minicamp practices with his new teammates, all of whom are also adjusting to the Vikings offense under new Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.
When asked about some of the system’s signatures that fans can anticipate, Cousins said he believes that the offense will have “a lot of attention to detail” under a highly organized DeFilippo. Cousins appreciates the background of DeFilippo, who spent time with five other NFL teams – including most recently the Super Bowl LII Champion Eagles – prior to joining the Vikings.
Cousins said the Vikings offense will feature a variety of influences.
“There’s obviously West Coast principles, there’s some things that they did with the Eagles last year, there’s some things that I did with the Redskins for years that I’ll help incorporate,” Cousins said. “And then the Vikings did so many things well last year – there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.”
Just as Cousins has been building a rapport with teammates off the field – from attending a Wild playoff game to throwing out a first pitch at a Twins game to catching a Kenny Chesney concert at U.S. Bank Stadium – he’s also seeing the chemistry build on the field, including with the offensive line.
Aside from Tom Compton, a former Washington teammate of Cousins whom the Vikings signed in free agency, all of Minnesota’s linemen have had to get to know the signal caller they’ll be protecting. Cousins said the unit has done a great job thus far and that he’s eager to see how the young players grow and develop.
“I’ve learned in my time in the league, players improve over time,” Cousins said. “So I’m excited as time goes by with some of the younger players, to see what their ceiling is, how far can they go? Because I think there’s even more left in the tank than maybe what they’ve got right now at this moment. So you obviously have a Riley Reiff, who’s pretty well-developed, played a lot of football, and we can count on him at left tackle doing a tough job. But there’s other young players who, inside, we’re excited to see what they have and how far they can go.
“Pat Elflein will be healthy here at camp, and we should have some depth, and that’s exciting, but it’s a tough job to be an NFL lineman,” Cousins continued. “It’s my job as the quarterback to get rid of the job quickly so that they don’t have to block forever.”
Cousins also is working to click with his receivers and said Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have “lived up to the hype” as a duo.
“ ‘Diggsy’ has run by our corners – good corners, and he runs by them. And not to put those guys on blast, but I’ve been really impressed with his speed, the way he can accelerate,” Cousins said, adding that Diggs’ best trait may be tracking the football through the air.
“[When you] have a natural ability to locate the football with your eyes and go catch it with your hands, especially when it’s up in the air for a long time, and you have to maintain full speed – he does that as well as anybody I’ve ever played with,” Cousins said.
He added that Thielen stands out as a “natural receiver” who attacks the football rather than absorbing it, making him difficult to cover.
“They both have tremendous ability,” Cousins said. “And we’ve got to keep them healthy, and we’ve got to keep them involved because when the football is in their hands, good things happen.”
When it comes to establishing chemistry with the receivers, communication is key – and it goes both ways.
Entering his seventh NFL season and coming off three as a full-time starter, Cousins knows what he likes from receivers, but he knows that listening is equally important.
“[I’ll ask them], ‘What have you done well? Why did you run the route that way? Because in the past, I’m used to it being run 2 or 3 yards deeper. And yet you cut it short – why is that? Talk to me about that,’ ” Cousins explained. “And to hear their reasoning, and many times, because Adam and Stef’ have been around the block, they understand football, they can teach me a lot about the game and what they do well.
“Then there’s times where I share something and they nod or agree, ‘That’s a better way of doing it.’ So we learn from one another, and that dialogue’s been fun,” Cousins added. “We just have to continue to tighten things down so that by Week 1, there’s no more guessing game, no more discussion. It’s decided, and we’re ready to go.”