AP Photo/Matt Slocum
In the largest moments, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins comes up small. He’s an anchor when the franchise is on the lookout for its Aquaman.
The 34-year-old signal-caller personifies mediocrity in a global the place elite quarterback play is extra crucial than ever to compete on the absolute best stage. The sport is constructed round superheroes posing as skilled athletes. Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Hebert and Lamar Jackson convey Superman-like qualities to the location.
Cousins does not also have exceptional herbal arm skill to make up for his loss of athleticism or the precision to repeatedly beat defenses with correct throws in keeping with pre- and post-snap reads. He lacks a unmarried elite trait.
Yet the Vikings group defiantly will pay him huge assured contracts to stay him as its offensive chief. It’s an inexplicable method that assists in keeping all of the group trapped within the Phantom Zone—i.e. an inescapable jail constructed of its personal making.
The juxtaposition of the group’s performances throughout the first two weeks of play completely encapsulates the place the quarterback and his squad take a seat a number of the NFL’s hierarchy.
During Monday’s 24-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, Cousins threw 3 interceptions and averaged below 5.0 yards according to try. All 3 turnovers got here in the second one half of and have been backbreakers.
To be honest, the 1st interception was once forgivable. Justin Jefferson did not paintings throughout Darius Slay’s face, and the cornerback undercut the go on the 1-yard line. Also, defensive take on Javon Hargrave hit the quarterback as he tried his throw, which took one thing off the go.
The subsequent two have been way more problematic.
Cousins appeared towards Adam Thielen to transform a Third-and-7 scenario. The veteran signal-caller did not acknowledge the beneath dropper. Instead, Avonte Maddox backpedaled and made an incredible overhead take hold of for the turnover.
After Jalen Hurts threw an interception, the Vikings had an opportunity to chop the lead halfway throughout the fourth quarter. Instead, Cousins noticed an unblocked edge defender, light backward and to his left, and threw a lollipop into the tip zone for Slay to snag.
One can argue that Cousins was once urgent all over a competition Minnesota by no means led. The Vikings trailed through a minimum of two touchdowns from the first-half two-minute caution all over the 3rd and fourth frames.
“I assumed Kirk battled this night,” head trainer Kevin O’Connell informed journalists. “Put him in some tough spots. I put this one 100 percent on me.”
Maybe Cousins felt he needed to make some plays. Therein lies the problem. He doesn’t have the skill set to consistently make off-platform plays or create outside of structure.
As The Athletic’s Arif Hasan previously noted, Cousins’ EPA (expected points per attempt) when trailing with 10 or less minutes remaining and in 3rd-and-long situations over the previous seven years ranked thirtieth and twenty fifth, respectively. He’s now not the man in high-leverage eventualities that lots of his contemporaries are.
Cousins’ real strength is orchestrating the offense as it’s constructed. When he’s in rhythm and comfortable, he can be highly effective. Eight days earlier, the Vikings looked like a completely different offense.
Minnesota defeated the rival Green Bay Packers by 16 points. During the contest, Cousins completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 277 yards and two scores. But the Packers did something unexpected and made life easy for their opponents. They didn’t regularly match up Jaire Alexander with Justin Jefferson, and the receiver had a field day. Jefferson caught nine passes for 184 yards against Green Bay’s heavy zone looks.
Cousins informed journalists later on:
“I would be a little surprised, yep. Whenever he has a game at that magnitude, not because of him, but you expect him to get taken away a little bit, and he will at times. Our coaches are trying to find ways to still keep him involved, and we were able to do that today. So it’s going to be kind of a conversation we had a lot last season, and we’ll have this season each week of how does he get defended.”
Jefferson is ascending toward superstar status. But he needs to excel against top cover corners. Slay caught more interceptions in direct coverage of Jefferson than the corner allowed receptions, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
“He’s one of the vital best possible on the earth,” Slay informed ESPN’s Lisa Salters (h/t Kimberley Martin), “but I’m one of the best in the world too.”
Obviously, not everything falls on Cousins. Jefferson can play better. Multiple drops occurred throughout the contest, particularly a heartbreaking bobble by tight end Irv Smith Jr. that should have turned into a 63-yard touchdown.
The margin of error for Minnesota is too small. It can’t make those mistakes. The Vikings’ top performers must show up and show out every week, because they don’t have a quarterback capable of elevating lesser players or overcoming adversity when everything isn’t perfect around him.
“We need to play better and will play better,” Cousins mentioned.
It’s what a quarterback will have to say when addressing the media. But the group’s problems with its present setup revolves round what Cousins can in reality do.
More than sufficient skill is living at the roster for the Vikings to compete on a weekly foundation. Jefferson will soar again after being most commonly close down. The 32-year-old Thielen can nonetheless be an element. Dalvin Cook would possibly not be held to 17 dashing yards frequently. The protection below coordinator Ed Donatell will be informed from taking part in a most commonly two-high-safety glance Monday in opposition to a robust flooring sport whilst nonetheless making a significant psychological mistake to give up a 53-yard landing bomb.
The Vikings stay in transition. New normal supervisor Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell sought after Cousins again to supply some balance. His signing was once additionally rooted in concern of subpar quarterback play. The 11-year veteran supplies a definite baseline. The downside is his ceiling and flooring overlap. As such, Minnesota stays in limbo because of moderate quarterback play.
Cousins is what he’s, and it is not excellent sufficient. The franchise, in the meantime, will tread water till it in any case is going in some other route on the sport’s maximum necessary place.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.