Former Vikings Star Cautions Kirk Cousins Can’t Solve the Problem in Minnesota

Kirk Cousins and Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Former Minnesota Vikings linebacker and sideline reporter Ben Leber is confident in Kirk Cousins entering a contract year next season but believes Cousins won’t be carrying Minnesota to a Super Bowl in 2023.

Appearing on the Go Long TD podcast with Tyler Dunne, Leber assessed the state of the Vikings after much of the business and roster-building of the offseason has come to a close.

Leber trusts Cousins will excel with his back against the wall while playing for a new contract, but the defense will again be the bane of Minnesota’s success.

“I don’t think ‘contender’ really is in the conversation right now. I think there’s a lot of optimism. The offense should be more than a top-10 offense. I think Kirk is going to have another huge year,” Leber said. “It’s another prove-it deal, which he’s very accustomed to. It’s not going to bother him. And I trust him. I do trust the fact that he’ll compartmentalize that and put that off to the side and do the best job that he can to help this team win the Super Bowl.”

Leber added that despite the addition of defensive coordinator Brian Flores, the subtraction of several veteran defenders in Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson and Za’Darius Smith and will prove difficult to overcome.

“This is a playoff team. But unless we show physicality on defense, unless we show a real balance on offense to run the ball when we need to, this could be another disappointing season in that we’ll make the playoffs and be bounced again like we were against the Giants,” Leber said. “The defense has been the liability. The inability to control the game defensively. We can’t stop the run consistently. Too many third-down conversions. Teams march down the field and we have these high-scoring affairs because the defense can’t hold its water.”

 Ben Leber Says Vikings Offense is Good Enough to Win Super Bowl

In the first year under Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings offense finished the season ranked eighth in points (24.9 per game) and seventh in yards (361.5 per game), per Pro Football Reference. Both are great marks that could be improved upon considering the continuity on offense.

“No doubt, this offense is going to be good enough to win the Super Bowl,” Leber said. It’s just whether or not this defense can pick it up. Pick up the pieces. Figure out what this new defense looks like. Get up to speed as fast as the offense did last year.”

But considering the losses on a significantly weaker side of the ball, the Vikings defense could potentially finish worse last season after they allowed the Vikings to be outgained (388.7 yards per game; ranked 28th) and outscored (25.1 points per game; ranked 31st) despite having a top-10 offense.

Ben Leber Says Brian Flores Was the Biggest Acquisition for Vikings This Offseason

Minnesota bet on Flores transforming the defense despite the departure of six veteran starters.

It’s lofty to believe Flores can turn around a defense that will have to fill in with inexperienced players in a single year, but Leber did credit the former head coach as the team’s biggest acquisition who should have a long-term impact on the franchise.

“I think the biggest acquisition this whole offseason was Brian Flores,” Leber said. “Now, we’ve jettisoned some guys. [Eric] Kendricks is gone. Patrick Peterson… Big names are gone. But I really think if this defense can be somewhere in the 14, 15, 16 ranking, especially in points, we have a contending team. But because the last three years we haven’t proven it, there’s apprehension.”