EAGAN, Minn. – A couple of Kirk Cousins’ most impressive throws against the Eagles Sunday afternoon came when the quarterback was under duress.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that Cousins had to “throw guys open” and described the way Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen “went and got the football” before they even had completed their cut.
Zimmer spoke to media members Monday and was asked if that type of throw is a demonstration of Cousins’ trust in his receivers.
“Knowing where the guy is going to be, trusting that he’s going to go get the football,” Zimmer said. “There were several times, probably three or four that happened in the game, that he made outstanding throws under pressure, and the receivers did an unbelievable job going to get them.
“I think Diggs is playing really well right now. He’s been really good at trying to get extra yards after the catch. He’s been very emotional and competitive all of the time,” Zimmer said. “Obviously Adam has had some really good games, so it’s been helping. I think these other guys are doing a nice job, too.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his podium session:
1. Talking League trends
Zimmer remembers a time coaching in Dallas when the Cowboys were lauded for 50-percent completions – “or less than that maybe” – during a season.
Heading into Monday night’s game between the Redskins and Saints, however, the league average of completion percentage is 65.0 percent.
Zimmer believes the trend is multifaceted, partially a result of rule changes that favor the offense and partially a reflection of quarterbacks throwing the ball possibly better than they did in the past.
Does the emphasis on the passing game make a balanced offense obsolete? Zimmer said he actually sees an interesting defensive trend.
“The thing that I think is the defenses now, there’s so many defense now that are playing single-high. I mean there’s a lot them playing single-high defense. I can name them after and after and after,” Zimmer said. “That makes it much more difficult to run the football into, usually. These teams that are checking the ball and throwing it, they’re taking a 5-yard throw as opposed to a 2-yard run.
“I think that’s just kind of how it is,” Zimmer added. “I do think it’ll get more balanced as the season continues to progress a little bit. I could be wrong, but I think it’ll get more balanced.”
2. Evaluating Mike Hughes through 5 games
Rookie cornerback Mike Hughes started in place of an injured Trae Waynes at Philadelphia and had a solid performance, playing all 59 defensive snaps and eight (30 percent) of Minnesota’s special teams plays.
Zimmer said the Hughes played well, pointing out that even on the 48-yard catch that Hughes allowed Eagles receiver Shelton Gibson, the rookie was “in great position, and the ball was a little bit underthrown.”
“Most of the time he was doing everything correctly,” Zimmer said. “He got beat on that last touchdown, he was a little bit misaligned on that. But he’s improved. He’s obviously got great quickness and talent. He’s a good kid that works really hard at getting better, asks a lot of questions, so I’ve been pleased with him.”
3. The development of defensive linemen
The Vikings front four held strong and put pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz despite being without Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen and also missing reserve DE Tashawn Bower, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly, each of whom notched a sack of Wentz, have been playing well together, and the fifth- and seventh-round draft picks have combined this season for 7.0 sacks.
Zimmer was asked about the Vikings ability to find diamonds in the rough in defensive ends who didn’t necessarily post impressive sack numbers at the college level.
“First of all, [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] is a great coach,” Zimmer said. “Then we look for certain traits that these players have, and it’s not just all athletic ability. Danielle Hunter is a guy that just wants to get better every single day, so that’s part of it.
“I think it took Stephen a little bit longer to get to that point,” Zimmer continued. “But I don’t think Danielle ever thinks that he’s arrived. I think he’s always trying to [say], ‘What can I do better today? What can I do better now? How am I going to get better?’ He’s always asking those questions, especially to Andre.”
4. Believing in Dan Bailey
Dan Bailey missed two of his five field goal attempts at Philadelphia, but he made a 52-yarder in crunch time that helped the Vikings seal a victory.
Zimmer was asked how much communication he has with a kicker during a game like that.
“I thought about talking to him during the game, but I didn’t. I don’t usually talk to him very much,” Zimmer said. “I 100-percent believed he was going to make that kick. I didn’t have any doubt in my mind.”