Vikings Have a ‘Colossal Problem’ on Their Hands, Insider Says

Kirk Cousins

Getty The Vikings offensive line could be a "colossal" problem after a tough outing against the Saints, Heavy senior NFL reporter Matt Lombardo says.

Kevin O’Connell, inheriting a talented roster, is off to the best start by a first-year Minnesota Vikings coach since Dennis Green won five of his first six games in 1992.

However, the Vikings, off to their best start since 2016, haven’t felt like a team rolling to a 3-1 record so far.

Outside a dominant season-opening victory over the Green Bay Packers, it’s been a struggle — and that’s the problem. Minnesota’s potential is well-known to the fan base, but after a demoralizing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings have eked out last-minute wins over the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints.

The 2022 Vikings feel like the 2021 Vikings, except they’re actually finishing games.

But if Minnesota hopes to realize its true potential, there’s a mess of problems that need to be fleshed out.

Heavy senior NFL reporter Matt Lombardo, who named Vikings star Justin Jefferson his Week 4 Most Valuable Player, laid out a “colossal problem” in Minnesota that came to light against the Saints.

Vikings Offensive Line Exposed Against Saints

Through three games, the Vikings offensive line had performed considerably better than expected after years of futility.

Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw have the looks of being the franchise’s bookend tackles for the next decade. However, the duo, along with the rest of the offensive line, took a step back on Sunday.

Both tackles were beaten in pass protection frequently. O’Neill whiffed badly on an outside swim move by Cameron Jordan, who reached Kirk Cousins for a second-quarter sack — not to mention Marcus Davenport manhandling guard Ezra Cleveland just an arm’s length from Cousins on the same play.

“When Kirk Cousins wasn’t getting sacked three times and hit eight times by the likes of Cam Jordan flying off the edge as Marcus Davenport stunted applying interior penetration, New Orleans’ pass rush was disrupting his rhythm from the pocket just enough to disrupt his throws,” Lombardo wrote. “Meanwhile, according to NFL NextGen Stats, the Saints held Dalvin Cook to 27 yards fewer than expected, the NFL Network broadcast pointed out.”

The Saints, which rank dead last with a 19% pass-rush win rate, per ESPN, created plenty of pressure even while sending just four pass-rushers while the Vikings offensive line, built to excel at running the ball, created little room for Cook to operate.

Minnesota was effective enough but struggled to capitalize on their chances in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 2-of-5 trips inside the 20-yard line. And against a more high-powered offense, the Vikings will need to do more, and that hinges on keeping Cousins comfortable in the pocket.

“The Vikings survived, 28-25, after Saints kicker Wil Lutz double-doinked a game-tying 61-yard field goal attempt. But, against a team that isn’t missing its starting quarterback, starting running back, and top wide receiver, it’s tough to envision this line — in its current form, not costing Minnesota dearly,” Lombardo wrote.

Jefferson Earns 2nd MVP Honors From Heavy’s Matt Lombardo

After another impressive performance in Week 4, Jefferson earned his second MVP of the Week nod from Lombardo.

“There might not be a more versatile game-breaker in the NFL than Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Not only did Jefferson catch 10-of-13 targets for 147 yards against the Saints, but his game-altering speed was on display on a gutsy jet-sweep call by head coach Kevin O’Connell where Jefferson’s speed beat the Saints to the pylon with ease for the conversion,” Lombardo wrote.

Lombardo gave Jefferson the MVP of the Week award after the Vikings star’s Week 1 performance over the Packers. Jefferson caught 9-of-11 targets for 184 yards and two touchdowns and nearly had a third touchdown that was ruled out of bounds by a hair.

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