As the off-season continues and the 2021 NFL season inches closer, the Minnesota Vikings work towards bouncing back and returning to the postseason this year.
The Vikings will be getting back players this season who missed time in 2020, whether from injuries or COVID concerns. Now, with players arriving for team workouts, they hope to hit the ground running. With high hopes for the season, certain players will be leading the charge for Minnesota. To get ready for the upcoming season, let’s take a look at who three of those players are, being they are the faces of the 2021 Minnesota Vikings.
Faces of the 2021 Minnesota Vikings
Like most NFL teams, one of the faces for Minnesota this season is their quarterback, veteran Kirk Cousins. Entering year four with the team, it may be his most important yet with the organization. Especially when considering the new presence of Kellen Mond looming behind him as his potential successor.
If Cousins doesn’t perform well this year, he could be on his way out following the season. However, if he performs admirably as he did in 2020, perhaps he remains under center for another year or two. Either way, this year will be telling for Cousins and his future in purple and gold.
Since signing with Minnesota in 2018, he has appeared in 47 of 48 possible games for the team. During his time as a Viking, Cousins has tallied 12,166 passing yards, has completed 69% of his passes, thrown for 91 touchdowns, and only 29 interceptions.
Moreover, his 2020 campaign featured the soon-to-be 33-year-old appearing in all 16 games. Cousins completed 67.6% of 516 passes, throwing for 4,265 yards, with a career-high 35 touchdowns to just 13 picks. He also added one rushing touchdown on the ground too.
It goes without saying that Cousins still needs to work on stepping up on the big stage when it matters most, something that he has been criticized throughout his professional career for. With a talented rushing attack and receiving corps surrounding him once again, this year is the perfect time for Cousins to show out.
In recent years, the Vikings have featured one of the most talented rushing attacks in the league. In large part, this is due to the stellar play of Dalvin Cook out of the backfield. The two-time Pro Bowl rusher has been impressive since entering the league in 2017 as a second-round draft pick. In four seasons, Cook has appeared in 43 games, totaling 3,661 rushing yards, 33 rushing touchdowns, and 148 receptions. Specifically, this past season Cook rushed for 1,557 yards, averaged five yards per carry, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, all while scoring one touchdown on 44 catches too.
Cook is the face of Minnesota’s offense and thanks to his dual-threat ability. Backed up by Alexander Mattison and Ameer Abdullah, the trio forms a strong rushing attack that helps lighten to load for Cook, who does have his past injury issues. If he is able to stay healthy like he did this past year, his dominance will only continue. With the rushing attack being the focal point of the offense, Cook will look to carry his MVP-caliber talent into the 2021 campaign.
From the moment he broke into the league in 2015, defensive end Danielle Hunter has been among the faces of the Vikings defense. With the exception of 2020, Hunter has been among the top edge rushers in the NFL and a star on the defensive side of the ball. Certainly, after missing the entirety of last season due to having disc surgery in his neck, the LSU product’s return is a big one.
This off-season, Hunter has made some headlines this off-season with reported frustrations with his current contract situation. Hunter wants a new deal, one that reflects him being one of the top pass rushers in the league. If this continues, it is possible Hunter may hold out a few games. Then again, that is the last thing Hunter or Minnesota would want to see.
A healthy and available Hunter will help the Vikings put pressure on opposing offenses, therefore limiting their options in both the passing and rushing game. A season ago, Minnesota’s defense struggled in their efforts to do so due to the absence of players such as Hunter.
Over five seasons, Hunter has played in 78 games, making 276 tackles, forcing six fumbles, hitting opposing quarterbacks 80 times, and racking up 54.5 sacks. Back in 2019, Hunter finished the year with 70 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and three fumbles. In the end, it comes down to health for Hunter. If Hunter can return to the field healthy right out of the gate, he will return to form and continue to be that dominant force Minnesota needs on the defensive side of the ball.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images