On Thursday, Kirk Cousins finished up his second spring of Vikings Organized Team Activity practices.
There's been talk and predictions around the league of how Cousins will look in Year 2 in Minnesota, and NFL.com's Dan Hanzus expects big things from the quarterback. He recently projected an MVP from each NFC team and pegged Cousins as Minnesota's top candidate. Hanzus wrote:
Cousins didn't give the Vikings the lift in 2018 that they imagined when they signed him to that all-guaranteed mega-deal last March, but hold off before denouncing the acquisition as a bust.
He's become an easy target – will that pressure motivate him or prove to be his undoing? I like the idea of Cousins … performing at a far more consistent level in 2019.
Who did Hanzus predict as MVPs for the Vikings NFC North rivals?
He continued with the quarterback theme for the Lions and Packers, saying Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers will have big showings in 2019. For the Bears, however, Hanzus went defense and highlighted Khalil Mack.
Against the Vikings last season, Mack recorded two tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack and one pass defensed. He also recovered his own forced fumble. Mack did not play in the teams' second matchup in Week 17.
Here's the scary thing about Khalil Mack: The All-Pro [outside] linebacker was the biggest difference-maker on a 12-4 Bears team a year ago – and he wasn't even playing at his ceiling. A sprained ankle suffered in Week 6 caused him to sit out two games and limited him in two more. Despite that, Mack led the team with 12.5 sacks and chipped in 10 tackles for loss, second-most on the squad. Mack told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that he aspires to produce at the level of all-time greats like Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas. Smack in his prime entering his age-28 season, we might be about to see peak Mack. Scary stuff.
View images from the Vikings OTA practice on June 6 at the TCO Performance Center.
NFC North position groups ranked
The Vikings defensive line is a tough one to beat across the league, let alone within the division.
Anthony Broome of 247Sports recently ranked position groups within the NFC North, and Minnesota topped the D-line group. Broome wrote:
It does not get much better up front on the defensive side of the ball than what the Vikings have assembled with Pro Bowlers at three of the four spots up front, with Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter at the end spots and Linval Joseph plugging holes in the middle.
The other three teams run 3-4 defenses, and the Lions have taken a big step there since last year, having added Damon Harrison via trade during the season and signing Trey Flowers in free agency to go along with Da'Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara.
Behind the Vikings, Broome placed the Lions, Bears and Packers, in that order.
Broome also tabbed the Vikings cornerbacks, tight ends and wide receivers as the division's best. He wrote the following of Minnesota's receiver group:
There may not be a better duo in the entirety of the NFL than the one that the Vikings have with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. They both eclipsed 100-plus receptions last season in a pass-happy offense, but things figure to balance out this year with the team trying to establish the run. That could cut into their production but also could make them more dangerous. There are still questions about their depth and who will fill out the other roles, but they do have some talent on the depth chart that is unproven, and their two stars trump just about everything else their rivals have.
Broome opined that Green Bay has the best quarterback in Rodgers, while Chicago led the linebackers and safety group. Detroit topped three position groups: running backs, offensive line and special teams.
The Vikings ranked second in linebackers, safeties and running backs.