Stop Playing the Blame Game

  Yikes. Most were anticipating some type of regression for the 2023 Vikings, however, it was supposed to happen after week one. The Vikings were 5.5 point home favorites against a Buccaneers team led by Baker Mayfield, this figured to be one of the team’s easier matchups of the season. And then in, what can only be described as, “classic Vikings” fashion, the team found a way to start the season off with a loss. Fans are quick to blame Kirk Cousins, Ed Ingram, KJ Osborn, and Kevin O’Connell, among others. While all certainly played a part, the blame game is leaving fans spiraling and it is only week one.

Practice Patience
  Week one is always full of anomalies. The Bengals and Chiefs will bounce back and the Rams and Commanders will likely regress as the season unfolds. The NFL is a fickle league, any team can win any game and while the Vikings’ week one loss was difficult to swallow, it will not determine the rest of the season. The biggest mistake fans make is overreacting to week one results. As the season progresses, Jefferson will see more targets in the second half of games and freak plays, like Ed Ingram stripping Kirk Cousins, will disappear. 

  Trusting the process and letting players settle in is a big part of practicing patience, but so is adjusting expectations. This team did not get better in the offseason. Some moves such as the additions of Brian Flores, Jordan Addison, and Byron Murphy were enough to fuel some excitement but not enough to make up for the losses of Cook, Thielen, Kendricks, and others. This team is going to be worse than last year, however, it has the building blocks for success, and giving O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah time to execute their vision for the team will be critical to its success. This team was not ready for a rebuild when Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell came along, so they have not been able to build the team fully in their image. They should be allowed patience as they navigate the hand they have been dealt.

In-Season Adjustments
  That said, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell are not free from judgment, especially with the moves they made this offseason. Of course, the defense was the weakest link in the 2022 season and they addressed that. However, the interior offensive line, arguably the second biggest issue in the 2022 season, was not addressed at all this offseason. And in week one, it showed. Ed Ingram looked incompetent at the right guard spot. Ed Ingram (right guard), Austin Schlottmann (center), and Ezra Cleveland (left guard) averaged a PFF grade of 56.07, absolutely awful. Instead of drafting interior offensive line help or signing a free agent at the position, the front office decided to stay put with a terrible position group. Earlier this offseason I graded the interior offensive line position group a D+ and that is looking generous. If the Vikings intend to win and keep Cousins alive this season, they better look for a trade or a free agent (Dalton Risner anyone?). Heading into a matchup with an elite Philadelphia Eagles defensive line with Christian Darrisaw injured is a daunting task for this offensive line.

  Aside from the offensive line issues, the offense looked shaky anyway. Justin Jefferson caught 7 passes for 138 yards in the first half and 2 catches for 12 yards in the second half. He only saw two targets in the second half, that is unacceptable. He is the second-best player in the NFL, according to the NFL’s Top 100 list, he needs to see the ball more in the second half, especially after tearing it up in the first half. 

  The defense seemed improved in this game, but the offense could not back them up. We thought the offense was going to have to support the defense, but that was not the case on Sunday. The defense looked better than the offense which is an encouraging sign. Granted it was against a Baker Mayfield-led Buccaneers squad, but if the defense can play like that all season, the offense should be able to snag enough wins to sneak this team into the playoffs in a weak NFC.

  Week one certainly did not go as planned and left Vikings fans feeling uneasy about the season. Weirdly the concern was on the offensive side of the ball. Unsurprisingly, it was the offensive line. While it might be easy to lose all confidence in this team, especially with some tough matchups ahead, patience is key. Enough placing the blame on one player or coach, stay patient, and adjust your expectations, or else it will be a long season.

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