Lunchbreak: Cousins Included Twice in ‘Best QB Duels’ of 2018

The Vikings offensive performance had a roller-coaster run in 2018, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer is confident in the new-look coaching staff to bring more consistency to that side of the ball.

In his first season in Purple, Kirk Cousins was 425-of-606 passing for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns. While he had his share of ups and downs, as well, Cousins was involved in some exciting shootouts during the season.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently put together a list of “best QB duels of the 2018 season,” and Cousins appeared on the rankings twice. First, the duel between him and Aaron Rodgers in the Week 2 Border Battle at Green Bay was highlighted.

PFF wrote that while Vikings fans may remember the disappointment of missed field goals and a tie, it’s important to not forget “how good the quarterback play was”:

Kirk Cousins was dominant in this game; despite getting pressured on 17 of 52 dropbacks, Cousins was able to deliver accurate passes all game, and he earned an 88.9 adjusted completion percentage on the afternoon. While Rodgers ended the game with a lower grade, he was also near his best and completed 32 of his 40 attempts for 281 yards, a touchdown, one big-time throw and zero turnover-worthy passes.

PFF next covered Cousins’ performance against Jared Goff and the Rams in Week 4, also a road game that came down to the wire but unfortunately ended in a Minnesota loss.

This “TNF” aerial assault featured some of the best deep passing of any game this year. Combined, Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff completed 9-of-10 deep passes for 295 yards and a staggering seven touchdowns. Where Goff was able to separate from Cousins was his play when not blitzed. When facing four-or-fewer-man rushes, Goff completed 17-of-18 targeted passes for 301 yards and five touchdowns, which produced an exceptional passing grade of 98.1 – the best single-game mark by a quarterback with at least 10 dropbacks against the four-or-fewer-man rush.

Which other QB duels made PFF’s list? The analytics team spotlighted the following: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Drew Brees in Week 1, Andrew Luck vs. Deshaun Watson in Week 4, Brees vs. Goff in Week 9, Russell Wilson vs. Patrick Mahomes in Week 16, and Sam Darnold vs. Watson in Week 5.

View some of the team photographers favorite the Through the Lens images from the 2018 season.

ESPN releases free agency guide

Which positions in free agency will be affected by the 2019 NFL Draft class?

In wrapping up ESPN’s 2019 free agency guide, Dan Graziano took a look at five position groups in this year’s draft class that could influence the market when free agency officially opens at 3 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday.

Graziano pointed out the depth of this year’s defensive line class. He wrote:

You’ve heard all about the loaded defensive line class. Teams picking in the first half of the first round could play hardball with agents for guys like Trey Flowers and Dante Fowler, Jr., by asserting that they can get a high-impact guy in the draft. And with players such as Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary and others just having torn up the combine in Indianapolis, they could be right.

According to Graziano, free agent defensive backs could have stronger markets this year because “evaluators don’t seem to think this is a particularly stellar year” for the position group in the draft, and he also took a look at the offensive line class compared to those players who are slated to high free agency.

Graziano also highlighted the talent at tight end in the draft pool while calling the free-agent tight end market “spotty.” And while he believes there’s not a running back who will go off the board in the top five, Graziano said there’s “intriguing depth and variety at the position.”

Teams always believe they can find starting running backs in the middle or late rounds, and they’re usually right. So why stretch for a Mark Ingram when you might be able to get Iowa State’s David Montgomery on Friday night? Or Washington’s Myles Gaskin on Friday (Day 2) or Saturday (Day 3)? Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill had the top 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump of any back at the combine. The only other running back since 2003 with a 4.4-second 40 and a 40-inch vertical at the combine was [Saquon] Barkley. There’s running back talent throughout this draft.

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