After spending the last several days previewing the Minnesota Vikings’ 2019 roster, we will conclude the series at perhaps the position that will dictate the course of their season: quarterback.
Returning Starter: Kirk Cousins
Returning Depth: Kyle Sloter
Veteran Addition: Sean Mannion
Rookie: Jake Browning
On opening day, Kirk Cousins will become the first Vikings’ quarterback since Christian Ponder in 2012 and 2013 to open as the starter for a second straight season. He enters his second season with Minnesota after coming off a productive yet disappointing first year in 2018.
Cousins put up one of the more impressive stat lines of the past decade for the Vikings: 4,298 yards, 70.1 percent completion rate (career high), 30 touchdowns (career high), 99.7 passer rating, 61.9 quarterback rating. He also showed in a number of games that he’s capable of having the big games needed to keep and even win when their defense falters, as his Week 2 (at Green Bay) and Week 4 (at L.A. Rams) performances would attest to.
However, he also showed that he’s not the type of quarterback who can raise his game to overcome deficiencies around him over the long haul. With an atrocious offensive line and struggling run game, Cousins struggled to carry the offense on his own, particularly late in the season versus Chicago in Week 17.
Minnesota addressed Cousins’ supporting cast in the spring. They primarily utilized the draft to reinforce their interior offensive line and add further depth at each of the skill positions. If most of these additions pay off early, the belief is that he can finally take the next steps needed to help get the Vikings to where they want to go.
Kyle Sloter returns for his third year with the team and likely, for the first time, comes in as a slight favorite to win the backup job. He’s played under current offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, during his tenure as quarterbacks coach for the past two years. In the few games (all preseason games) he’s played in, he’s shown a knack for making big plays when his team needs them.
Sean Mannion will be competing with Sloter for the job. He also enters with little game experience outside of preseason action in four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. That everyone else in the room will be learning a new scheme actually helps to level the playing field a bit for him to get every chance to win the backup job.
Browning could be the new developmental project if he can make a strong enough impression in camp. He’s got traits that the team has sought in their quarterbacks over the years that, if developed, could help him become a quality backup or a potential trade chip.
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This team will be leaning on Cousins in 2019 to take them back to the top of the NFC and a shot at a long awaited return to the Super Bowl. After using the offseason to improve the offensive talent in front of and around him, this season will in all likelihood come down to Cousins’ play. If he falters or suffers an injury, Minnesota’s 2019 season could very well go down with him.