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2021 NFL Team Preview: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) point the fans after scoring his second touchdown against Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter of an NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

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2020 was a roller coaster for the Minnesota Vikings. Kirk Cousins and the offense had a respectable season, but the Vikings’ defense was a major disappointment (nflanalysis.net). Head coach Mike Zimmer knows that a 7-9 record will not cut it in 2021.

The offense should again be a strong point for Minnesota this season. The front office used quite a bit of draft picks on defensive players with the hopes of improving that unit. Here’s a closer look at the 2021 Vikings.

2021 Offense

Kirk Cousins had one of his best pro seasons last year by throwing for a career-high 35 touchdowns. The 32-year old will look to build on that success this season by utilizing several different weapons on offense. The Vikings drafted Kellen Mond out of Texas A&M to act as an insurance policy in case Cousins gets hurt.

Opposing defenses are finally seeing just how good running back Dalvin Cook is. The former Florida State superstar had a splendid 2020 by rushing for career highs in touchdowns (16) and yardage (1557). The scary thing is that Cook could perform even better this season. The Vikings drafted two talented offensive linemen, Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis, to open up more holes for Cook to run through.

The Vikings receiving unit is one of the best in the NFL. Justin Jefferson made the Pro Bowl during his rookie season last year by catching 88 passes for 1400 yards and 7 touchdowns. Jefferson and Adam Thielen form a dynamic duo that is difficult for defenses to stop. Thielen caught a career-high 14 touchdowns in 2020 and is poised for another productive season. Keep an eye on Irv Smith Jr., a talented tight end who should play a bigger role in the offense in 2021.

2021 Defense

The 2020 Vikings defense struggled mightily against the pass as opponents averaged 258.8 passing yards per game. The unit was also terrible against the run by giving up 134.4 yards per game on the ground.

Four draft picks were spent on defensive players to help improve the defense’s production in 2021. Linebacker Chazz Surratt, a third-round pick out of North Carolina, may not start right away but he has tremendous potential. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson comes over from the Giants to help stuff the run.

Vikings management made a key move to help out the secondary by bringing in stud corner Patrick Peterson. The former LSU standout intercepted three passes and made 61 tackles for Arizona last season. This unit should show some overall improvement in 2021.

2021 Special Teams

Greg Joseph and Riley Patterson will compete for the starting kicker job in 2021. Patterson had a solid collegiate career for the University of Memphis. Britton Colquitt returns as the starting punter after averaging 45.1 yards per punt in 2020.

K.J. Osborn will handle most of the return duties in 2021. The former Miami Hurricane had 303 kick return yards in 2020.

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