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Monday Morning Mailbag: What Went Wrong For The First-Team Offense Against Arizona?

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Do you attribute Kirk Cousins' struggles against the Cardinals to not having Adam Thielen to rely on? It seems like he was lost without him today.
-- Jerry Provost

No. Having to perform without a key starter is nothing new to any quarterback. What's important to keep in mind while digesting Saturday's disappointing showing by the offense is that there isn't one person or one thing to blame. Both Chad Beebe and Stefan Diggs had dropped passes for what would've been 1st downs. Protections broke down on two sacks. Cousins missed Diggs on a deep pass when the receiver had broken open. There was a myriad of miscues that added up to the performance and we should not blame one player for it. We should also keep in mind that while Saturday's performance was not up to standard, the offense in general has looked good all of training camp and also had two sharp performances in the first two preseason games. It's not time to panic on the offense, but it is a wake up call for the group and now they'll need to spend the next week diagnosing and correcting their errors so they are ready to go Week 1 against Atlanta.

Dalvin Cook showed what he can do. But what worries you most? The lack of quarterback-receiver communication? Or the offense giving up sacks?
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

The Vikings offense had a negative play of some kind (sack, loss of yardage, penalty) on its first four possessions and that is what I found most discouraging about the performance. Sometimes the defense is just going to make a good play and knock a pass down or stop a running back for no gain or only a short gain. Those things are normal and should be overcome with consistency. What's very difficult to overcome on a drive is a sack for a loss of eight yards or a holding penalty for a loss of 10 yards. Even with Thielen and right tackle Brian O'Neill in the game, you can't keep putting yourself so far behind the chains and expect to move the ball down the field consistently. Reducing the amount of negative plays will be a focus going forward.

Most of the position battles you gave us at the beginning of the preseason appear to be unresolved heading into Thursday's game. I know it is not your call, however, are there any position battles where you're ready to declare a winner?
-- Bill Dunn

No, for exactly the reason Bill stated. It's not my call. But I also think a lot of them remain unsettled, such as the kickoff and punt return jobs and the third running back position. Clearly, Mike Boone has demonstrated he has the goods to play in this League. But Ameer Abdullah, while not as productive as a runner this preseason, has also demonstrated he can help in a variety of ways on special teams. So I'm not comfortable saying one of them is in and one of them is out; they could both be in. Ultimately, it's the coaching and personnel staffs who will make these choices and another thing to remember is that not every choice is an absolute one. Sure, we may be looking for the team to declare a WR3, but the reality is they are going to keep five or six receivers and WRs4-6 will be asked to contribute in the same way WR3 is asked to contribute.

Chad Beebe was the talk of camp, but he has not shown up when the lights have come on. What is the chance of Bisi Johnson becoming our No. 3 wide receiver? He is making plays come game time and looks ready to challenge.
-- Larry Riddle

While Beebe hasn't done anything in preseason games to blow the fan base away, I wouldn't discount him as someone who will be an important contributor in 2019. As I stated in the previous answer, the Vikings are going to need more than three receivers. Someone is going to technically be called the WR3, but I can promise you that WR4, WR5 and WR6 are going to be asked to step into games and produce. Given how he's performed in practices and preseason games, it won't surprise me at all if Johnson is one of those receivers on the 53-man roster. He's also been involved in the return game the last two weeks, which is even further indication the coaches are gaining trust in him.

What is the deal with finding a competent and consistent placekicker? It seems to be the weak point for the last five-to-six years. I know it's too early to panic, but it sure would be nice to have this up to speed before the regular season begins.
-- Todd Rossiter
Stockton, CA

I'd actually argue the Vikings already have a competent and consistent placekicker with Dan Bailey on the roster. He made 30 of 31 extra points last season and he's five of five on extra points this preseason. While Bailey's field goal percentage in 2019 (75%) was a little short of what's expected, he did make his final five field goal attempts of the season and you have to grant him some grace for joining a team midseason and trying to gain synergy with a new holder and long snapper. Bailey has been good in practice and sharp this preseason, so I have no reservations about him if the Vikings choose to make him their placekicker heading into the regular season.