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NFL Experts Discuss Keys to Vikings Bouncing Back in 2019

The Vikings fell short of expectations in 2018, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman are looking to bounce back in 2019.

Spielman joined KFAN's Paul Allen, Paul Charchian and Ben Leber on 9 to Noon Friday morning and spoke about changes to Minnesota's offense that he's hopeful will help that rally.

"With Coach Zimmer and the coaching staff that he's put together, we're very excited about turning the page and getting back on track," Spielman said. "There's no question, I think Kirk Cousins definitely has the ability to be our franchise quarterback, but he's also going to get the blame because we ended up at 8-7-1 this year."

Spielman pointed to the decision to retain Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator and bring in Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, under which the Vikings will work on implementing an offensive scheme that plays to Cousins' strengths.

"I think he's definitely evolved as a leader since he's come in the building, and you see that fire and passion that he does play with," Spielman said. "I know how badly he wants to win and how much time, effort and energy he puts into it day-in and day-out. He's going to get the blame on it, but it's not always just the quarterback."

"I know with the energy in the building, with the way that meetings have gone this past month as we prepare to get ready for the new league year in a couple of weeks, that we're very optimistic going into next year," Spielman added.

Several NFL experts also weighed in on Minnesota's outlook for the upcoming season.

ESPN's Field Yates spoke with Vikings team reporter Eric Smith and posed the question: How does Minnesota rebound from a disappointing 8-7-1 campaign after reaching the NFC Championship game the previous year?

"It's really interesting … if I were to do a draft of the 32 NFL rosters, where I could just pick a roster one by one, I think the Vikings would be in my top five or six. I really do," Yates told Smith. "If you look at it – balance on both sides of the ball, certainly an impressive defensive roster, but on offense, too. I mean, how many wide receiver groups are you taking over a group led by Adam [Thielen] and Stefon [Diggs]? Certainly great production by the running back spot last year, and a lot of the requisite pieces. But how do they get better?"

Yates reflected on what caused the Vikings to miss the postseason, and he pointed toward an offensive line he believes underperformed and requires bolstering.

"Finding a way for the offensive line to be fortified and to play better overall [is important]," Yates said. "And then on defense, defense is pretty good. It might be a matter of, if you lose a couple of key pieces, how do you replace them? Or, it's continuing to see ascension from some of your key players.

"So I think a lot of it is going to be bringing the band back together on defense, as much as you can, and then on offense, offensive line, I think, is really the catalyst to a good offseason," he added.

Leber joined and caught up with NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Stacey Dales, who each highlighted Head Coach Mike Zimmer's option being picked up to retain him in Minnesota through 2020.

"Mike Zimmer is going to bring a good defense," said Dales, who will be keeping an eye on the way free agency shakes out for Minnesota.

"The frustrating part of this league is you can have great players, but because of money, they're going to have to go somewhere else. I'm interested to see how they can keep that thing functioning," Dales said. "But then offensively, I think from a national perspective, this team under-achieved last year with a quarterback that was designated to be the difference in advancing [in the] playoffs.

"Stefon Diggs was fantastic, Adam Thielen was outstanding, but what does this offense morph into with [Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski] and all the tools that this team has?" She continued. "Dalvin Cook, to me, is one of the best backs in the league. So how are you going to use him better next year?"

Garafolo opined that Zimmer's contract extension conveyed that it's not a "make-or-break" season for the Vikings but that the "results need to be there," nonetheless. He credited the team for locking up key players over the past couple of years to help keep the band together.

"The depth is still there. The talent is still there across the board," Garafolo told Leber. "You've got the changes on the coaching staff that they are hopeful [will] lead to better offensive performance. The sense is they should be competitive and they should be that team that maybe we thought they were going to be in 2018."