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Lunchbreak: Evaluating Cousins’ Performance Under Pressure 

The Vikings haven’t seen the overall results they’re looking for as a team, but quarterback Kirk Cousins is putting up strong stats in his first season in Purple.

Over four games, Cousins is 131-of-189 passing for 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions with a passer rating of 103.6.

Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com pointed out, however, that Cousins’ first quarter of the 2018 season has been “hampered by sacks, hits, hurries and fumbles.” Coller broke down Cousins’ performance under pressure – which has been on a career-high 42.2 percent of his drop backs.

As a starter in 2015, that number was 35.9 percent; in 2016, 32 percent; and last season, Cousins was pressured on 36.6 percent of his drop backs. Coller wrote:

Especially over the last two weeks, opposing defensive linemen have found themselves in Cousins’ face. Buffalo Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes registered 12 pressures, and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald put up 13 on Thursday night. Consider that putting up five or six pressures would make for a very good game.

According to Coller, Cousins has “shredded blitzes to the tune of a 105.9 quarterback rating,” and teams have done the most harm with four-man rushes.

Coller included a bar graph to illustrate Cousins’ stats in a clean pocket versus under pressure and said that the quarterback “has largely been very good, it would appear that better protection is required to get the most out of Cousins.”

Vikings seeking balance after 4 games

After the Vikings loss to the Rams, Cousins anecdotally recounted an exchange with Adam Thielen: Thielen told Cousins that “the other dog came out” in Stefon Diggs, meaning the receiver had reached another level and should start getting the ball.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin wrote recently that the Vikings need their own “other dog” to surface. She pointed out that Minnesota is experiencing similar struggles on both sides of the ball that Cousins experienced in Washington:

Washington never had a run game that ranked higher than 20th during Cousins’ three-year stretch as a starter, nor did he have the support of a defense that could bail the offense out when things went awry.

That was supposed to change when he arrived in Minnesota. For the first time in his career, he was expecting to play with the backing of the league’s No. 1 defense and a run game touted as the centerpiece of this offense.

Cronin delved into defensive issues, offensive line struggles and a lack of running game, and she added that the first quarter of the season “has yielded a display of ups and downs for Cousins.”

That key word – balance – is one the Vikings aim to find going forward. If Minnesota’s defense and run game can bring out its "other dog" like Cousins and his top receiving duo did in Los Angeles, he will finally have the support that’s been missing during his first four games as a Viking.

Twin Cities becoming popular hosts for major sporting events

Not yet a year removed from hosting Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis has a second X Games under its belt and is getting set to host the men’s Final Four.

The NCAA also announced last week that the 2022 Women’s Final Four will be played at the Target Center.

Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune wrote Sunday that Minnesota is quickly “becoming second to none” as the host of major sporting events. He quoted Minneapolis Mayor Frey, who said the following upon the Women’s Final Four news:

“We’re really finding that people love us. And we love them right back.”

Christensen wrote:

Despite their freezing reputations nationally, the Twin Cities have entered rarefied air. Only four other markets have been picked to host the trifecta of the Super Bowl, men's Final Four and women's Final Four: Atlanta, Dallas/Arlington, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

Throw in markets that have held the MLB All-Star Game, at least this century, and Minneapolis sits with Atlanta on that list.

Christensen pointed out that the Twin Cities played host to the 2016 Ryder Cup, which will make its return in 2028, and that Atlanta last held the vaunted event in 1963.

Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics and the College Football Playoff championship this January. It also sold out the Georgia Dome for WrestleMania in 2011.

But Atlanta never has hosted the Summer X Games or WNBA All-Star Game, as Minneapolis did just last summer. Atlanta never has held the NCAA volleyball or wrestling championships, which come to Minneapolis this December and in 2020, respectively.

“We try to definitely remain humble,” said Melvin Tennant, president of the Meet Minneapolis convention and visitors bureau. “But I think people do notice that we’ve been on a good run.”

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