The Vikings aren't sitting where they'd like to be right now at 1-3, but they haven't given up the fight, either.
As Minnesota looks to notch a second win this weekend against Detroit, Chad Graff of The Athletic looked at "biggest Vikings surprises" through the team's first four games. Graff listed 10 surprises, all of which you can delve into here.
Let's check out a few of the topics Graff covered, starting with Vikings guard Olisaemeka Udoh. Graff wrote:
Perhaps you could argue that Udoh has been surprising on two fronts. On the one hand, Udoh was very good in his first three games as the team's starting right guard.
On the other hand, Graff noted, Udoh turned in a disappointing performance against the Browns on Sunday in just his fourth career start at the position.
Still, if Udoh delivers positive results in three-quarters of his games, that's something the Vikings will take from a lineman who had never even played right guard before training camp. His strength and size have been a big asset, and he's helped improve the interior of the offensive line even while acknowledging how bad his performance was against Cleveland.
Graff has been pleasantly surprised by Minnesota's special teams unit, which struggled in various phases during the 2020 season.
With the exception of one disastrous field goal attempt, [a 37-yard miss to end the game against the Cardinals], the Vikings have actually been much-improved on special teams this season. I'll admit, I was skeptical of how much a difference a change at special teams coordinator (Ryan Ficken) and a few veterans signed off the street would make to this unit.
But the early results have been very encouraging. The team has improved on punt return, kickoff return, and punt coverage. For a franchise that has had special teams issues for several years, that's a positive development. If not for that missed game-winner in Arizona, this unit would get As.
Equally impressive to Graff has been Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn, who was drafted last spring but didn't play a single snap of offense in 2020.
The wide receiver was the star of Vikings offseason workouts, but it's one thing to shine in July and another to translate that to actual NFL games. Yet that's what Osborn has done. The second-year player has 219 receiving yards (just barely behind Adam Thielen's 227) on 17 catches with a touchdown.
More importantly, he's become a reliable threat on third and fourth downs and a great third option, something the Vikings haven't had since Jarius Wright left. Wide receiver was one of the team's biggest question areas entering the season, but Osborn's emergence has eased those concerns.
Not all of Graff's "surprises" were along a positive vein, though. He also looked at some not-so-happy surprises, including a lack of production from the Vikings 2021 third-round draft picks so far.
The Vikings didn't have a second-round pick in April, but they made four selections in the third round – and none are regular contributors.
At draft time, it seemed like Wyatt Davis would be a starting offensive lineman, Chazz Surratt would be the No. 3 linebacker, Patrick Jones II would compete for a starting job on the defensive line, and Kellen Mond would be the No. 2 quarterback.
None of that happened. That's partly why the Vikings have the least snaps from rookies this season of any team in the NFL. Last game, three of those picks (Mond, Jones, and Davis) were healthy scratches, while Surratt suited up but played zero snaps on defense.
Cousins and Goff rank 12th & 23rd among QBs
The votes are in, and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins once again landed near the middle of the pack in NFL.com's QB rankings.
Cousins was in the top third (10th overall) in Gregg Rosenthal's rankings last week, but he fell two spots heading into the slate of Week 5 games. Rosenthal wrote:
That's two games this season in which the Vikings offensive line has made the quarterback position nearly unplayable. Cousins didn't hold up as well as he did in Week 1 against the Bengals, but there wasn't a lot Cousins could do on many plays against the Browns.
The Vikings are prepping to face Lions QB Jared Goff on Sunday, which seems odd after a decade of readying for Matthew Stafford. But Minnesota also is familiar with Goff, who played for the Rams before being traded this offseason.
Through his first four games in Detroit, Goff is 110-of-161 passing for 1,100 yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating is 96.8.
Rosenthal ranked Goff 23rd on the list.
I'm not sure if there's a more consistent quarterback in the league. Every Jared Goff week – almost every Jared Goff throw – looks like the one that came before. He may not be the long-term solution for the Lions, but he's far from their biggest problem.