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Lunchbreak: Mays Spotlights Vikings ‘New Offensive Identity’ for 2019

The Vikings will have a new offensive identity for 2019 that centers around quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Robert Mays of The Ringer took a deep dive into Minnesota’s offensive philosophy and outlook heading into Cousins’ second season leading the huddle and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s first full campaign in his respective role.

After hiring Stefanski as the offensive play-caller (first on an interim basis late last season and then permanently), the Vikings next move was adding longtime coach Gary Kubiak as Minnesota’s assistant head coach/offensive advisor.

Mays wrote:

In Zimmer’s 20 years calling defenses, Kubiak’s zone-running, play-action-heavy offenses — first deployed when he was the coordinator for the Elway-era Broncos and later as the Texans’ head coach — had consistently given Zimmer fits. If the Vikings were going to remake their offense, he thought, why not pick the scheme that’s always been a thorn in his side? Not to mention, [Cousins] had played in a similar system with the Redskins and has a reputation for being an excellent play-action passer.

[…]

They asked Kubiak to come to Minnesota as an offensive advisor, leaving most of the heavy lifting to Stefanski.

“You start talking about your vision for the team,” Stefanski says of the staff’s early meetings. “And I will tell you, in particular with Gary and I, our visions aligned.”

Mays emphasized that the 2019 season will be “crucial” for the Vikings, who have retained several of their core players on offense and defense.

Now, fueled by a dynamic coaching partnership and armed with a system perfectly tailored to their expensive quarterback, the Vikings finally think they have an offensive identity that can put them over the top — and not a moment too soon.

“If you talk to our players, there’s no secret about what we’re trying to do here,” Stefanski told Mays. “In our building, in our coaches’ meetings, in our offensive meeting rooms, we know exactly what we want to be and how we’re going to do it. I think that’s half the battle.”

Click here to read Mays’ story in its entirety.

Thielen expected again to be Vikings top slot receiver

According to Michael Florio, slot receivers “are all the rave right now,” especially for NFL fans who are part of a fantasy football league.

Florio wrote the following for NFL.com:

Slot receivers are no longer just small guys who can’t cut it on the outside – in fact, Tyreek Hill led all players last year in yards and touchdowns from the slot – [showing] you that coaches are using the slot to put some of their best players, and our best fantasy options, in great positions to succeed.

Florio went team-by-team and evaluated their slot receiver situation, listing their top pass catcher from the middle in 2018 and delving into expectations for the upcoming season.

Thielen was the Vikings 2018 slot leader, averaging 22.3 routes per game in the slot. He averaged 5.5 targets per game there, 4.3 receptions per game, 44.8 receiving yards per game and scored seven touchdowns.

Adam Thielen is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. He proved last season that 2017 was no fluke and should once again be drafted as a WR1 in PPR leagues. He finished first in receptions from the slot (69), fifth in yards (718), tied for second in touchdowns (7) and third in targets (88).

The Vikings will also mix Stefon Diggs in the slot at times. He finished last season with 32 targets, 27 receptions, 269 yards and two touchdowns from the slot, while Kyle Rudolph finished with 261 routes, 37 targets, 28 receptions, 341 yards, and three touchdowns.

Florio added that second-year receiver Chad Beebe could see more time in the slot this season, which could “push” Thielen to the outside a little more.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night.

Coller calls out ‘difference makers’ in Vikings defeat of Seahawks

The Vikings are now 2-0 in the 2019 preseason thanks to a 25-19 defeat of the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium last night.

Several players’ performances were worth highlighting, as SKOR North’s Matthew Coller pointed out. He listed a number of players who “were difference makers” in Sunday’s game.

Coller spotlighted Thielen said there “aren’t too many better players in the league at making over-the-head catches,” which he did for 34 yards on a deep pass from Cousins.

Coller wrote the following of safety Jayron Kearse, whom he found impressive against Seattle:

Anthony Harris is the clear starter but Kearse came in and made an instant impact, picking up three tackles for loss within the first several plays. He nearly picked off an errant pass from [Paxton] Lynch early in the third quarter. After a spotty start to his career, Kearse has moved his way into a role as a “big nickel.”

He also spoke highly of wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, who has become more explosive as he’s returned to health.

As the wide receiver competition raged on, Zylstra rose to the challenge on Sunday night, catching five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown between the second and third quarters. Gary Kubiak expressed his admiration last week for the former CFL’er, who was injured early in camp but was good enough to make the squad last year.

Coller said that “the door is definitely open for [running back Mike] Boone to take the No. 3 job.” And on the defensive line, he opined that Ifeadi Odenigbo “continued to make his case” for a reserve defensive end spot.

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