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Lunchbreak: Vikings Offensive Struggles Listed as Team's 'Biggest Surprise'

Through two games, the Vikings have struggled in all three phases as they have gotten off to an 0-2 start.

But ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin believes one phase's play has been more surprising than most.

ESPN's team of beat reporters picked out the biggest surprise of each team they cover, with Cronin opining that the struggles of Minnesota's offense has been eye-opening thus far.

Cronin wrote:

The Vikings touted their continuity all offseason, and it was a driving factor behind many decisions. Kirk Cousins was going to be better in his second year under Gary Kubiak's leadership after having a new offensive coordinator every year since 2015. Cousins lost Stefon Diggs but still had a solid supporting cast around him.

The offensive line remained a work in progress, but Minnesota drafted a future franchise left tackle and moved pieces around. Still, the offense has not been able to play at a level in which it can pull its own weight and that of a rebuilding defense. Simply put, the offense has not shown improvement thus far, and without a defense capable of bailing them out, it could be a very trying season.

Through two games, Minnesota's offense ranks 30

th overall in yards per game at 278.5, which leads only fellow 0-2 teams in Washington and the New York Jets.

Perhaps even more indicative of the struggles is that the Vikings rank last in time of possession at just 20 minutes and 10 seconds per game. And Minnesota is also 32nd out of 32 teams in total offensive plays, with just 96 through two games.

Cousins has been among the many players who have struggled, as Sunday was perhaps his worst start as a Viking.

Entering Week 3, his passer rating is a league-worst 61.9 among the 34 quarterbacks who have started at least one game in 2020.

View photos of the Vikings preparing to take on the Titans during practice at TCO Performance Center on Sept. 23.

PFF grades Jefferson, Gladney through 2 weeks

While the Vikings roster is littered with rookies, only the first-rounders have seen extended playing time thus far.

Analytics website Pro Football Focus recently graded all 32 first-round picks from the 2020 NFL Draft, including wide receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney in Minnesota.

PFF writer Sam Monson expanded on Jefferson's early-season grade of 60.3.

Monson wrote:

With Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense struggling, Justin Jefferson had little chance to make an impact in Week 2 against the Colts. He caught all three passes that came his way, gaining 44 yards and moving the chains twice.

That was an improvement over his debut a week ago, not least because he didn't drop a pass this week, but he needs his quarterback to be in better control if we are going to see what kind of impact he can truly make as a secondary threat to Adam Thielen.

Jefferson chatted with the Twin Cities media on a video conference on Wednesday about continuing to establish a rapport with Cousins.

"It starts at practice — just being at practice and just finding that connection with Kirk, for him to really just rely on me through the tough times and those contested throws," Jefferson said. "As long as I'm out here making those plays, he can get more comfortable with throwing the ball to me."

Gladney, meanwhile, made his first NFL start in Week 2. Through 2 games, he has a PFF grade of 48.5.

Monson wrote:

Initially beaten out for the starting job in training camp by third-round rookie Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney got a chance to try his hand at starting with Dantzler injured this week. He played 60 of a possible 70 snaps on defense and gave up catches on six of the eight targets he faced.

Five different Colts receivers at three different positions beat him for a catch, and Zach Pascal got him for a touchdown, as well. Gladney isn't alone, with the entire Vikings defense reeling right now, but this wasn't a start to remember for the rookie.

Gladney also spoke with the Twin Cities media on a video conference earlier this week.

"Well, I'm young and my teammates know I'm young. But I'm a pro at the end of the day," Gladney said. "Those guys are depending on me just like I'm depending on them. So I've just got to go out there and do my best."

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