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Wide Left: The Vikings want to get over the hump, but what has changed?

This year's Vikings team looks a lot like last year's Vikings team.
Mike Zimmer

Blair Anderson is a Vikings fanatic who somehow convinced Bring Me The News that it would be a good idea to give him a platform to express his emotions. Alas, here we go again... 

The 2020 version of the Vikings is shaping up to be a lot like the 2019 version of the Vikings. That's not a bad thing. The Vikings were a good team last year and even picked up a playoff win. 

But they weren't able to get over the hump and beat one of the top teams in the NFC and when a team with a powerful pass rush and a strong running game came to town, the Vikings folded like a cheap tent.

It set the age for the offseason: Find a way to get over the hump in order to get to the first Super Bowl since 1977. So the Vikings set out...and did the same things they've been doing.

What has changed about the offense?

Let's backtrack to the end of the season. The Vikings lost Kevin Stefanski to Cleveland when he decided being the head coach of the Browns was more important than winning a playoff game. 

With some grumbling about the offense, the Vikings could change things up and maybe even venture into modern football by getting the ball in the hands of two of the best receivers in the league, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Instead, the Vikings hired Gary Kubiak as their new offensive coordinator, who seems focused to dust off the Denver Broncos playbook from 1997. This is fitting considering Kubiak's scheme was installed and he may have actually been running the offense last season anyway.

Diggs wanted out and with a fistful of emojis he got his wish and was sent to Buffalo. Hey, that's different! But not the different we are looking for here.

The Vikings then locked up their guy Kirk Cousins to the point of giving him a $44 million cap hit in 2022. While Cousins stepped up at some key moments last year, his game is like a ticking time bomb ready to put together a clunker when his pocket dips below 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix in a quarterback draft class with solid options and the Vikings could have found a quarterback that has already "unlocked his athleticism" or at least had some sense of pocket presence.

There's also the matter of the offensive line, where the Vikings didn't have much room for error. Adding a Pro Bowl tackle that is 32 years old, has a lengthy injury history, and just took a year off seemed like a great idea, but the Vikings really drove the point home by releasing Josh Kline. Which is...different?

What has changed about the defense?

The defense also is different, but not in a way that's ideal. The Vikings lost five starters on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. Some of the starters such as Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes were appearing to take a step back, but Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and Everson Griffen still had something to give.

None of those guys found the right situation to come back, but it wasn't limited to just the players. Defensive coordinator George Edwards left for a "bigger role" as the Cowboys' linebackers coach. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray left to take the same role with the Packers.

Zimmer's response to the losses was to promote Andre Patterson and his son, Adam, to co-defensive coordinator, but we know who's really running the show.

The Vikings did get Michael Pierce, who is known as The Juggernaut, but there was still a lot of work to be done before entering the NFL Draft.

What was different about the draft?

With holes all throughout the roster, Rick Spielman had a chance to fill plenty of them during the NFL Draft. Now, my draft grades showed that I liked the draft as a whole, but the strategy was the same damn thing we've seen from the Vikings.

The Vikings started off with safe, reliable picks at the top. Justin Jefferson could be really good, but he might not have the ceiling of CeeDee Lamb, who could have been reasonably acquired in a trade-up (more on this in a second).

Then the Vikings went with Jeff Gladney, who has been described as a "Mike Zimmer corner." Tough. Scrappy. Worked out at the combine with a torn meniscus. Ugh.

The Vikings even traditionally waited for offensive line help, waiting until the 58th overall pick to select Ezra Cleveland as the left tackle of the future.

But it's what happened the rest of the draft that irks me. Spielman began hoarding late-round draft picks like it was toilet paper and by the time Saturday rolled around, the Vikings still had 13...yes THIRTEEN...selections to go.

Spielman's has a track record of finding late-round gems, but that becomes significantly easier when you have double-digit selections in those rounds every year.

Such is what irks me about this process. The Vikings could have swung for the fences and landed Lamb or even a top-flight tackle, but Spielman went full Gollum and defended his precious late-round picks, half of whom might not even make the roster.

Is this team any different?

For those of you keeping score at home, the Vikings have expected a different season using the same scheme, the same coaching staff (minus some defections) with the same erratic quarterback with nobody to push him.

They tried to use their draft with the same strategy to land high-floor prospects at the beginning and throw late-round darts and have the same offensive line which somehow features Pat Elflein still starting at guard.

This is like opening case after case of Miller Lite thinking that at some point it's going to taste good. Spoiler: The same thing is going to happen.

Maybe the Vikings will surprise me when the season gets rolling, but for now, things look a lot like the same.

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