Tue, 26 Jan 2021

2020 Vikings Position Recap: Quarterbacks

Minnesota Vikings
13 Jan 2021, 20:37 GMT+10

Eric Smith

EAGAN, Minn. - The Vikings and Kirk Cousins agreed on a multi-year contract extension in March, and the starting quarterback delivered with another strong overall season in 2020.

And while Cousins' did endure some highs and lows - so, too, did the Vikings as a team - the quarterback put together a performance that placed him among the league's top signal callers.

According to multiple metrics, the 32-year-old was a top-10 quarterback in 2020, his third season in Purple and ninth overall in the NFL.

According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Cousins had a season grade of 83.9, which ranked ninth among quarterbacks who made at least eight starts in 2020.

Cousins also finished eighth among all quarterbacks with a passer rating of 105.0, which was the second-highest of his career and ranked eighth overall with 4,265 passing yards.

He also orchestrated a trio of game-winning drives in 2020, which was the most of his career, and tied for the fourth-most among all NFL quarterbacks this past season.

And the team captain was durable once again, playing all 1,082 offensive snaps for Minnesota in 2020. That marked the second time in three seasons, along with 2018, that Cousins didn't miss a single play all season.

The quarterback has now played 3,099 of 3,157 possible snaps since joining the Vikings in 2018. He has started 47 of 48 possible regular-season games in that span, only sitting out the 2019 season finale when Minnesota's playoff seed was already determined.

Cousins also delivered key road wins at Soldier and Lambeau Fields as the Vikings won five of six games following their bye.

Cousins wasn't perfect in 2020, however, as he threw 13 interceptions, his most as a Viking.

And his interception rate of 2.5 percent (13 picks out of 516 total pass attempts) was the highest of his three-year span with Minnesota.

The quarterback was also sacked 39 times in 2020, which Cousins said some of could be attributed to him for holding onto the ball too long.

But overall, it was another solid season for Cousins, who is in line to play on his second contract with the Vikings once the 2021 season begins.

Notable Number: 35

Cousins threw 35 touchdown passes this past season, which set a personal best for him and was the sixth-most in the league.

That total was also the second-most touchdown passes thrown in a single season in Vikings lore, trailing only the 39 that Daunte Culpepper threw back in 2004.

Cousins threw three touchdowns in half of Minnesota's 16 games (for a team record eight in one season), and had five games in which he threw for three scores and no interceptions.

Memorable Moment

The Vikings trailed the Panthers by double digits early in the fourth quarter and needed a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive in Week 12.

Cousins delivered in the clutch, completing 12 of 13 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns and a pass on a 2-point conversion on Minnesota's final two possessions to help the Vikings squeak out a 28-27 victory.

The quarterback threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson, and then capped the comeback with a 10-yard score to Chad Beebe with just 46 ticks left in the wild win.

Cousins was Cousins named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his play, the first time he captured that honor in his Vikings career.

Regular-Season Statistics

Kirk Cousins

Completed 349 of 516 passes (67.6 percent) for 4,265 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a passer rating of 105.0

Sean Mannion

Zero snaps; spent entire season on 53-man roster

Jake BrowningNate Stanley

Zero snaps; spent entire season on practice squad

Nate Stanley

Zero snaps; spent entire season on practice squad

The highest high(s)

1. Cousins loves to play the Lions.

Cousins delivered a highly efficient, yet unflashy, performance in a 34-20 victory.

The quarterback attempted just 20 passes - his second-lowest total of the season - but was spot on by completing 13 of them for 220 yards.

Even more impressive, Cousins tossed a trio of touchdowns, including two to tight end Irv Smith, Jr. The other went to running back Ameer Abdullah.

Cousins' final passer rating on the day was 141.7, his best mark of the season and highest as a Viking.

He thrived again in Week 17, throwing for a season-best 405 yards in a 37-35 win over Detroit. Cousins completed 28 of 40 passes (70 percent) with three touchdown passes and also ran for a score.

In two games against Detroit this past season, Cousins completed 41 of 60 passes (68.3 percent) for 625 yards with six scores and zero interceptions.

He is 6-0 in his Vikings career against the Lions.

The lowest low

1. When you throw an interception on the very first play of the game, which then turns into a disastrous first-half performance with three picks, there's really other no choice for this spot.

And did we mention this came against a previously winless Falcons team in your home stadium?

Cousins had perhaps the worst 30-minute stretch of his career, and certainly the worst of his time in Purple, in Week 6 against Atlanta.

He dropped back to pass on the first play from scrimmage and threw to the ball right to Falcons linebacker Deion Jones. Minnesota trailed 7-0 just five plays later.

Cousins was also picked off twice in the second quarter, including by Falcons rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell for his first NFL interception. Cousins was later intercepted by linebacker Foyesade Oluokun on a play where the quarterback was pressured and his arm was hit.

Atlanta scored 17 points off those turnovers, which caused the Vikings to face a 20-0 halftime deficit ... and fall to 1-5 on the season entering their bye week.

2 pressing questions for 2021

1. Does Cousins start 2021 the way he ended 2020, even if there is another coordinator change?

Cousins threw 10 interceptions in Minnesota's first six games in 2020, but responded with just three in the final 10 contests.

His turnaround helped the Vikings get into contention for a playoff spot in the final month of the season, although the team ultimately fell short of that goal.

With Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak mulling retirement, Cousins could soon have a fourth play caller in his helmet in as many seasons in Purple.

Minnesota will likely keep its offensive scheme the same, which will benefit Cousins. But it remains to be seen who will be delivering the play calls to Cousins in 2021.

2. How will the Vikings approach their depth behind Cousins?

Mannion has spent the past two seasons as Cousins' backup, starting one game and playing just 54 snaps in that time. He is a sounding board for Cousins on the sideline and in meeting rooms, but he is also slated to be a free agent this offseason.

Minnesota also has a pair of youngsters in Browning and Stanley who spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad.

Browning, an undrafted free agent who signed in 2019, also spent that season on the practice squad. Stanley was a seventh-round pick in 2020 out of Iowa.

Is one of those two youngsters ready to take the next step and be the backup to Cousins? Or perhaps the Vikings stick with Mannion again, as he's a knowledgeable backup with two starts in six career seasons.

The Vikings could also address this position in the draft, although it would seem there are higher priorities along the roster.

Quotes

"I love the scheme that we're running offensively, I love the wide zone offense, I love the play-action passes. All those things. A coach told me one time that your offense should be what your quarterback is best at. And that's what I feel Kirk is best at. Those kind of things are what makes him really good. So, to me, that is really important."

- Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Cousins' skill set heading into 2021

"The more time we had together - we didn't have that much time before the season, but during the season we connected more and more. We stayed after to get more routes, get more throws in so that connection just built over the year."

- Jefferson on his rapport with Cousins during his record-setting rookie year

"It's nice to have positive statistics but ultimately that's not what it's really about. Ultimately you want to win games, and that's where my focus is and will be going forward."

- Cousins on how he'll remember Minnesota's 7-9 season

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