Hope springs eternal in the spring! So that must mean that hopes and dreams go to die in the fall. It’s a take that was once delivered by the comic genius George Carlin, but in the state of Minnesota, no words could ever be spoken truer.
Here in Minnesota, we have the Twins in the spring, who may irritate us with their ability to be cheap and say that everything is a complicated question, but they’ve at least won a championship. In the fall, we have the Vikings, which is the more beloved of the two, but always seems to crush our hopes and dreams as everything around us outside dies.
As we head into the 2019 season, which begins on Sunday with a date against the Atlanta Falcons, expectations still remain high for this team. They’re two years removed from appearing in the NFC Championship game and a lot of the pieces still remain from that team. The offensive line has been beefed up from last year’s disaster and hopefully, Dalvin Cook will stay healthy enough to be the straw that stirs the drink in the backfield.
Defensively, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph should be back to their old selves and Xavier Rhodes will probably stop acting like he got shot every time an opposing wide receiver whizzes past him, making the Vikings secondary that much better.
But as the season fires up on Sunday, there’s just something in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s the fact this team face planted so hard last season or maybe it’s just that Viking pessimism that creeps in every now and again. Then again, this just feels like a team that is destined for a .500 season. Let’s look at what this team has working against it.
I’ve been one of Kirk Cousins' staunchest supporters because…well, he’s our quarterback for the next two seasons, so you might as well get used to him. But something about his last preseason start just turned me off. Cousins had one of those games he just tends to have from time to time where he looks like he just got done polishing off a keg of Grain Belt in the parking lot.
With a 3-for-13 performance against the Cardinals, I wonder if any offense, no matter how quarterback friendly it is, can save us from the random “Oh s@#$!” game Cousins spews out every so often. It’s almost like playing Russian roulette and if the bullet is in the chamber, bye, bye Boris.
There’s also the matter of depth at receiver. The Vikings did the right thing by packing Laquon Treadwell’s bags, but there’s still nothing behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen even with the addition of Josh Doctson earlier this week. There are some guys, such as Doctson and Chad Beebe, who could step up, but their other option to use as a receiver is a freaking tight end in Irv Smith Jr.
Maybe Smith has a bigger role than we’re expecting, but if he’s lining up as a big receiver all the time, we better hope he has the ability to get open and be that third target. That’s a lot to ask for a rookie tight end.
Going back to that defense, this is a team that’s starting to get a little long in the tooth. It’s funny to think that 30 is old (especially with my age), but that’s the age where Zimmer takes the metaphorical shotgun and brings one of his beloved stalwarts behind the Gjallahorn like a Norwegian version of Old Yeller. With Joseph, Griffen and Rhodes at or inching closer to that 30 year mark, are we in for a decline?
Oh and the special teams. Cheese and rice, that could be bad. The Vikings basically spent all offseason trying to fix it and in the end, the guy that Rick Spielman lit a fifth-round pick on fire to acquire got treated by Mike Zimmer like someone’s significant other when you tell them to go grocery shopping and they come home with a brand new puppy.
And speaking of Zimmer. We all love the guy because he’s the hard-nosed, bad ass that reminds us a little of Bud Grant. However, it just seems like this is his last stand. If the Vikings do well and surprise us like they did in 2017, then we’ll be ready to draw a rough draft of a statue outside of U.S. Bank Stadium. If not, he will be the version of Norwegian Old Yeller (probably along with Spielman, but I digress).
This is an important season for the Vikings and while I don’t believe there is a truly dominant team in the division (Sorry, Chicago.), I wonder if the Vikings can get out of their own way to prove me wrong. Such is the story for this franchise, because as always, the fall marks the beginning of the end.