Through three weeks of the NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings sit at 2-1 and atop the NFC North division. There are many reasons as to why the Vikings have gotten off to this strong start between the new coaching staff and the players. Here are my choices for the best Vikings players through the month of September that have helped them win games.
The game against the Philadelphia Eagles was not good for the Vikings QB, but in the two wins, Kirk Cousins has stepped up when the Vikings needed him. In the two victories, Cousins completed 64% of his passes for 537 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions.
The most intriguing part of the Kevin O’Connell hire revolved around how he would “unlock” Cousins and the Vikings passing offense. To this point, Cousins has seemed more comfortable throwing deep passes, and there’s been a clear effort to move the ball downfield quickly.
Prior to the season, I touted the Jordan Hicks signing as the most underrated move of the Vikings offseason. Through three weeks, Hicks has played some terrific football.
Especially against the Detroit Lions, Hicks did a little bit of everything to help the Vikings win. He had a key pass break up on 3rd Down in the fourth quarter, and in each of the two wins, the new Vikings linebacker recorded 14 tackles.
Overall, Minnesota still needs to work out some of the kinks on defense, but Hicks and Kendricks in the middle of the field have done their jobs quite well.
The unfortunate thing about an offensive line playing well is that it often goes overlooked. On the other hand, a bad o-line is often one of the first things to be discussed.
Because of that, I feel that it’s time to give this Vikings o-line some love. Especially at the tackle spots, this has been one of the better o-lines in the league.
Against Aidan Hutchinson on Sunday, LT Christian Darrisaw dominated the matchup. Overall, he allowed zero pressures on 47 drop backs this week. For his effort in both pass protection and run-blocking, PFF gave the second year tackle a grade of 89.4. That is elite stuff.
Irv Smith Jr. has gotten his season off to an inconsistent start. Because of that, the Vikings have used all three of their tight ends, Ben Ellefson, Johnny Mundt, and Smith, at different points in the young season.
As someone who doubted Mundt’s potential as a pass-catcher, it’s time for me to eat crow. If nothing else, Mundt has been consistent, catching seven of his eight targets so far this season.
Mundt has also provided a boost in run-blocking that we haven’t seen from Smith. His versatility on the field is a big reason why the Vikings have found ways to win this season.
Justin Jefferson is obviously one of the main reasons that the Vikings started the 2022 season 1-0. He recorded 9 catches, 158 yards, and a pair of touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in the season opener.
Since then, Jefferson has not been able to match that type of production again. However, the amount of attention that opposing defenses have been forced to pay to him has allowed other Vikings receivers to get open.
Particularly against the Lions, both K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen had strong performances. Each of them had 60+ yards receiving and caught touchdown passes. Without Jefferson’s presence, these players would not have nearly as easy of a time getting open.
Hopefully, the Vikings will find a way to get Jefferson open more often moving forward. He is one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL when he has the ball, and Minnesota must find ways to get him involved in future games.
Until then though, Jefferson has been the most overqualified decoy in the league, and it’s a huge reason why the Vikings beat the Lions this week.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh can often be found training for a marathon, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken