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Statistically speaking, Kirk Cousins is a very effective NFL quarterback. What do you think he needs to do this season to get to the level of an Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, or Drew Brees-type quarterback? Thank you!
— Tom from Blaine, Washington
Tom leads us off with a great question, and one I'm sure many Vikings fans are wondering about as the 2021 season looms.
I don't want to steal the infamous quote of late Raiders owner Al Davis, but when it comes to expectations for Cousins this year, it's "Just win, baby."
The quarterback is entering his fourth season in Purple and has put up plenty of impressive stats in the league.
He's thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in each of his previous three seasons (and is on a run of six straight seasons hitting that mark). Cousins has also thrown for 4,000 yards in two of his three years in Purple, and has eclipsed that standard in five of his part six overall seasons.
The 32-year-old is also usually among the league leaders in completion percentage and fewest interceptions thrown, although his rough start to the 2020 season inflated that latter stat a bit a year ago.
But amazingly, Cousins has exactly a .500 record in 104 career starts at 51-51-2. With the Vikings, he has been better at 25-21-1, but that three-year stretch includes just one playoff win.
There's no doubt Cousins is among the top half of quarterbacks in the league, and there's an argument he's in the top 10 if you ask me.
But if he really wants to get to the level of those three quarterbacks Tom mentioned, it's simple: win.
View the best photos from minicamp at the TCO Performance Center shot in black-and-white by the Vikings team photographer, Andy Kenutis.
What do all of them have? A Super Bowl ring.
Cousins, of course, will need help around him — as every quarterback does. The Vikings went all-in on revamping their defense this offseason, so that unit should be able to give him a few extra possessions this year.
There are also a boatload of skill players around him, and Minnesota has invested deeply in the offensive line in recent drafts to help protect him up front.
The pieces appear to be in place for Cousins to be able to take the Vikings on a deep playoff run this season. I have no doubt he would prefer that over gaudy statistics.
I am just wondering why the Vikings have not signed an experienced offensive guard or tackle. Yes, they drafted one of each but they are rookies and there is no experience behind them.
— Gerald Ruzicka
And speaking of that offensive line in front of Cousins, Gerald has an inquiry about that position group.
As I mentioned above, nearly all of Minnesota's resources in free agency this offseason went to the defense.
Minnesota brought back previous players who were set to become free agents (Rashod Hill and Dakota Dozier) and tradked a sixth-round pick to acquire interior lineman Mason Cole from Arizona.
I'm not saying any of those players are Pro Bowlers, but they have 76 combined starts between them. Cole leads the way with 32, while Dozier has 27 and Hill has 17.
Hill (left tackle) and Dozier (right guard) worked with the first-team offense during the offseason program, but rookies Christian Darrisaw (left tackle) and Wyatt Davis (right guard) could certainly earn starting roles with strong performances in training camp and the preseason.
If that does end up being the case, those three would be solid backups with the experience you are looking for.
I'm wondering if there is any chance that the Vikings will add a veteran third wide receiver?? Our team is resembling the '98 Vikings team, and with a reliable third option besides the two tight end players, it would make us almost unstoppable. What do you think?
— Tim Foreseen
High praise from Tim, but I'm not ready to compare the potential of this offense to what the 1998 unit did. That group boasted of multiple Hall of Famers and seemed to score points like they were playing a video game.
As for a potential wide receiver addition, it's certainly a possibility. We also covered WR3 in last week's Mailbag, and an established veteran would certainly boost that group.
The Vikings pro scouting department keeps tabs on players that are still available. Perhaps the Vikings go through the first week or so of training camp to see how young players progress before determining it they want to bring in a veteran.
As always, it's worth pointing out that with Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Irv Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin, the Vikings already have a strong group of options in the passing game.
The Vikings third wide receiver might actually end up being the fifth or sixth option in the passing game because of the talent and skill of other players.
View photos of the Vikings 2021 schedule at U.S. Bank Stadium and on the road.
What was the player feedback on the white soft-sided helmets? Anything significant?
— Kathye in Mandan, North Dakota
Great question from Kathye, who hits on a topic that Craig Peters wrote about for Vikings.com at the beginning of the offseason program.
If you want the details on the soft-padded helmets, you can find that story here.
We really didn't ask the players about them other than that first week, but from my view, players seemed to enjoy the less-physical nature of practices and wearing them.
Each NFL season is a grind, and the 2021 version will be even more so with a 17th game. Keeping players free and clear from unnecessary extra contact in May and June could go a long way to maintaining good health when it really matters.
My best guess is that we see something similar next year since the players seemed to like them. And Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer certainly liked the work that was put in during practices, as he canceled the final mandatory minicamp session as a result of their hard work.
Do you see us putting the rookie [Jaylen Twyman] on IR for the season since he was shot? Does that mean we can keep more players like Sheldon Richardson and let Twyman go after season?
— Warren W.
Before I get into the football aspect of the Vikings rookie sixth-round pick, the most important aspect about Twyman is that he is apparently OK and expected to make a full recovery.
As for what impact the shooting has on his rookie season, that remains to be seen. The hope would be that Twyman is healthy and can participate in full, but he might end up missing some time to heal from his injuries. He might compete for and make the 53-man roster, or maybe he ends up landing on the practice squad to further develop in 2021.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that Twyman's best-case scenario as a rookie — before the shooting — was to be a rotational guy on third down to help generate pressure as a pass rusher. With Richardson now signed alongside Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson, Twyman now has a chance to learn under a handful of veteran players at his position.
The Vikings do like Twyman's potential, but his health is the top priority at the moment. How he fits into the team's future plans will all be sorted out down the road.