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Lunchbreak: ESPN Ranks Vikings 18th in NFL in Continuity

It's no secret that there was a fair bit of turnover on the Vikings defense in between 2019 and the upcoming 2020 season.

Free agency departures and terminated contracts came after multiple seasons with very little changes to the core group. But that being said, how much continuity did Minnesota retain overall coming out of last season?

ESPN explained that teams being unable to meet in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be "problematic for teams that made a lot of moves this offseason or advantageous for clubs that maintained continuity from 2019 to 2020."

The Buffalo Bills top the league with 95.4 percent of their offense returning, while the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers lead the way on defense with 88.3 percent coming back. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs return nearly their entire starting lineup and coaching staff. On the flip side, the Carolina Panthers return a league-low 58.2 percent of their offense and an even worse 36.2 percent of their defense under new [Head Coach] Matt Rhule.

ESPN's NFL Nation reporters ranked all 32 NFL teams based on continuity. The Vikings and Cardinals tied for 18th in the league with 73.4 percent.

According to ESPN, the Vikings "continuity stats" shake out in the following manner:

_Offensive snaps returning:_85.1% (6th)

_Defensive snaps returning:_62.9% (24th)

_Starters returning:_18 (9 offense, 6 defense, 3 special teams)

_Non-coordinator assistants returning:_11 of 17

_Coordinators returning:_1 of 4 (Marwan Maalouf, ST)

_Starting QB:_Kirk Cousins, 3rd season with Vikings (9th overall)

_Head coach:_Mike Zimmer, 7th year (57-38-1)

ESPN's Courtney Cronin wrote:

Continuity is the buzzword for the Vikings offense. Zimmer liked what he saw from Cousins & Co. last year and said the same system, play calls, motions and formations will remain in place to help this unit take another step forward. Defensively, it's a different story. With two new co-defensive coordinators in Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer, who will continue to coach their respective positions, along with a host of new position coaches and starters, the Vikings defense is set to undergo a period of evolution.

View the top photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2019 season.

Cousins ranked 5th among QBs under pressure in 2019

Quarterbacks are evaluated by a number of metrics: passer rating, completion percentage, arm strength, mobility, and the list goes on.

Recently, NFL.com's Nick Shook honed in specifically on quarterbacks' performances under pressure, using two specific numbers tracked by Next Gen Stats to rank the top 10 passers in this category. Shook wrote:

The first is passer rating under pressure, a slightly modified version of a traditional metric that most football fans should understand (158.3 is perfect, while anything 100 or better is pretty darn good, etc.). The second is completion percentage above expectation while under pressure, which might be the best indicator of all. How effective are you in the most trying moments on the football field? That statistic attempts to answer that question.

Shook noted that quarterbacks "must have thrown a minimum of 250 pass attempts" in order to be included.

Minnesota's Kirk Cousins came in fifth on Shook's list of best QBs under pressure. According to Next Gen Stats, Cousins when under pressure in 2019 had a 91.5 passer rating, a +3.8-percent rate above expectation and a 58.1 percent completion rate.

Cousins was a stud under pressure in the earliest years of NGS tracking, which helped destroy a narrative of him being average at the absolute best. But thanks to a play-action offense built out of an emphatic rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook, Cousins doesn't face as much pressure as he once did. Even with that considered, he still lands in the top five of most under-pressure metrics. His passer rating under pressure was fifth-best, his completion percentage under pressure was fourth-best and his completion percentage above expectation while pressured was also in the top five. You won't often see Cousins' name mentioned among the Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes of the league, but he has the numbers to back it up.

The four quarterbacks who ranked higher than Cousins when under pressure were (from 1-4) Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Derek Carr and Lamar Jackson. Coming in behind Cousins were Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Daniel Jones.

NFL commits $250 million over 10 years to 'combat systemic racism'

On June 5, the NFL released a video of Commissioner Roger Goodell giving a statement condemning racism and admitting that the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier."

"We encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said.

Eric Kendricks, a member of the Vikings Social Justice Committee, told media members Wednesday that Goodell's response was appreciated.

"That's what we wanted; we wanted to be acknowledged. We wanted it to be out there," Kendricks said. "It's uncomfortable for everybody. Obviously we play football and we want to try to keep it to football as much as possible, but these are issues that are facing the majority of the players' communities. For us to feel like we can't speak up about it and x-y-z, it just didn't feel right. Finally having Goodell say those things and having our back, I feel like we can all move forward now. We all can take a deep breath and really go after these issues that are plaguing our country. I'm thankful that I have this platform and I have these resources that the Vikings have been so generous – I truly believe that it's going to bring the best out in all of us."

The NFL announced Thursday that it will commit a total of $250 million over the next 10 years to "combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African-Americans."

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