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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Kirk Cousins, Vikings’ first-team offense have plenty of work left to do

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ first-team offense could not have looked better than they did in the preseason opener last week in Denver. Cousins connected on all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards, completing his only series with a 1-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs.

That was exactly what the Vikings wanted to see from their $84 million quarterback.

Cousins’ second preseason go-around, which came Saturday in his home debut at U.S. Bank Stadium, wasn’t nearly as smooth. After having some struggles in a couple of joint practices against Jacksonville this week, Cousins and Co., put on a sloppy performance in a 14-10 loss the Jaguars.

Cousins completed only 3-of-8 passes for 12 yards in a four-series outing that extended into the second quarter. The Vikings have two exhibition games before the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against San Francisco. Considering starters almost never play in the preseason finale, Cousins really only has one game in which to get work.

That means coach Mike Zimmer and first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo are going to want to see far more from the first-team on Friday when the Vikings play host to Seattle.

What they witnessed Saturday wasn’t pretty, although it did come against a unit that finished second (to Minnesota) in total defense last season.

Cousins was 0-for-2 on the Vikings’ opening drive, which stalled at the Minnesota 35-yard line. He completed 3-for-4 passes (7, 4 and 1 yard) to set up a 44-yard field goal by Kai Forbath on the Vikings’ second drive. Running back Latavius Murray brought a quick end to the Vikings’ third possession when he lost a fumble following a 2-yard loss. It was Murray’s second fumble of the first quarter, although Minnesota guard Tom Compton was able to fall on the first one.

Cousins returned for the Vikings’ opening possession of the second quarter and threw incomplete passes toward Adam Thielen and Diggs before departing.

Just as Cousins’ perfect performance in Denver wasn’t a reason to get overly excited, his 45.8 passer rating on Saturday needs to be kept in proper perspective. Dalvin Cook, who is returning from a torn ACL and has been taking part in training camp, did not play for the second consecutive preseason game. The Vikings are being cautious with Cook, but he will play a significant role in DeFilippo’s scheme.

The biggest concern remains an offensive line that continues to be plagued by injuries. Left tackle Riley Reiff was the only projected starter who was able to play on Saturday. The remainder of the starting line featured Compton at left guard, Cornelius Edison at center, Danny Isidora at right guard and Aviante Collins at right tackle.

The missing included Nick Easton, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk; Pat Elflein, who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list because of ankle and shoulder issues; Mike Remmers, who has been out since early in camp because of an ankle injury; and Rashod Hill, who missed time early in camp because of an illness and injured his ankle last week.

The injuries along the line might not be as big of a deal if Case Keenum was returning as the Vikings’ quarterback and Pat Shurmur was back as offensive coordinator, but Keenum is now in Denver and Shurmur is head coach of the New York Giants.

Cousins was supposed to have had the luxury of spending training camp working closely with the line and especially his starting center in Elflein. DeFilippo was supposed to have had significant time in camp watching his first-team line and offense get reps as he installed his system.

Those things are not going to happen. This might not cause panic at TCO Performance Center, but it certainly is less than an ideal way to get started.

The post Zulgad: Kirk Cousins, Vikings’ first-team offense have plenty of work left to do appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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