The 2020 NFL season didn’t go as planned for the Minnesota Vikings, as they missed out on an appearance in the postseason after reaching the NFC Divisional Round the year prior. In 2021, the Vikings hope to get back into the playoffs and try and make another deep run by the end of the season. The good news for the Minnesota Vikings roster is they will once again return a bulk of a talented offensive group headlined by quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson when the new year begins. As the off-season continues to roll along and the 2021 campaign continues to creep closer, here’s a Minnesota Vikings roster breakdown and outlook of the offense that will likely take the field for the team this season.
Minnesota Vikings Roster Outlook: The Offense
As far as who will take the field as the starting quarterback under center in 2021, that will once again be Cousins as he returns to Minnesota for his fourth season in purple and gold.
Behind Cousins, the backups have a bit of a different look this year, with rookie Kellen Mond serving as the backup, followed by Nate Stanley and Jake Browning.
In 2020, Cousins was the only quarterback to take the field during the regular season for the Vikings, throwing for 4,265 yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He completed 67.6% of his 516 pass attempts and averaged 266.6 passing yards per contest. In what might become a big year for Cousins and his future in Minnesota, the Vikings hope to mirror what they did at quarterback a season ago in the new year.
Throughout the course of the 2020 season, the Vikings had one of the top running back groups in the NFL coming out of the backfield, and Minnesota hopes that group returns to form once again when the new year begins this fall.
A year ago, the Vikings tallied a total of 468 rush attempts (eighth-most in NFL) for 2,283 yards (fifth-best in NFL) and 20 rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth-most in NFL). That group was led by the duo of Cook and Alexander Mattison, also boosted by fullback C.J. Ham on the ground.
This season, Minnesota is expected to feature the running game as much as it did in 2020, with Cook, Mattison, Ham, Ameer Abdullah and Kene Nwangwu making up the running back corps coming into the year.
Cook will be the featured back as the starter for that group, looking to build on another Pro Bowl season last year. Mattison will be the primary backup at running back, followed by Abdullah and Nwangwu filling out the rest of the depth chart. Ham will be the primary fullback once again for Minnesota, contributing out of the backfield for another year.
To counter the dominant running game, the Vikings also feature a talented group of receivers spread out between the wide receivers and tight ends on roster.
Over the last few years since Cook broke into the NFL to take over the ground game, Minnesota hasn’t had to rely as much on the passing game, although it’s still an important aspect to have to balance out the offense. In 2020, the Vikings ended the year with a total of 349 receptions (24th in NFL) for 4,265 yards (12th in NFL) and 35 touchdowns (sixth in NFL).
When it comes to the layout of the receiving group in Minnesota, Thielen and Jefferson will return as starters in 2021. That duo will be followed by Chad Beebe and Olabisi Johnson, with Ihmir Smith-Masette, Dan Chisena, K.J. Osborn, Whop Philyor, Myron Mitchell and Black Proehl all rounding out the current depth chart.
For the tight ends, that unit will look a bit different than what Vikings fans have seen in past years, with Kyle Rudolph and Minnesota parting ways this off-season to clear some much-needed cap space. In 2021, Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin will both see a solid amount of playing time at tight end, followed by Zach Davidson as the third-string on the roster.
The Vikings will have high hopes for their receiving group once again in 2021 in hopes of being able to open things up for the rushing attack and make the offense and even more dangerous threat throughout the season.
Now onto the biggest question mark and aspect of Minnesota’s offense over the last handful of seasons. It seems almost every season we are talking about the Vikings offensive line and how the organization will work to shore up that front line going into the new year.
Once again in 2021, Minnesota hopes that group will improve to help protect Cousins under center and open up holes for Cook and company out of the backfield. If that will actually take place, well that will to be seen when the regular season officially begins.
As far as the starting linemen this year, we will likely see the likes of Christian Darrisaw, Dakota Dozier, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland and Brian O’Neill in those positions to begin the season. Mason Cole, Rashod Hill, Kyle Hinton, Oli Udoh, Evin Ksiezarczyk, Dru Samia, Cohl Cabral, Wyatt Davis and Blake Brandel currently fill out the rest of the depth chart at this point in the off-season.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings offensive line graded 28th in the the NFL pass-blocking in 2020, allowing Cousins to get sacked a total of 39 times, which ranked tied for eighth-most in the league.
The offensive line will continue to be an important factor to Minnesota’s offense and how far this group will be able to go in the 2021 season. But the Vikings hope they are on the right track to finally figuring out the front line specifically in order for that offensive to thrive.
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