Six harsh truths the Vikings have to confront after the season
Minnesota had a lot going for it in their week 15 game.
With their loss to the Bears, the Vikings' playoff odds dropped to just 3%. It's not quite over yet, but the postseason is far from over at this point.
Because of this, the team should look ahead and that requires some thought. The Vikings are a good team, but they clearly have some issues - at pretty much every stage of the game - that need to be addressed.
So it's a hard time for the truth. Here are some things that can be hard to hear when you're a Viking, but you still need to consider:
Even with Michael Pierce and Danielle Hunter, the team needs to improve the line of defense
Photo: Harrison Barden / USA TODAY Sports
Pierce, arguably the Vikings' largest free agency this year, has withdrawn from 2020. He'll be of great help when he's back on the field. Hunter is of course a very effective player. With these two back, the other starters on the defensive line could be Ifeadi Odenigbo and Shamar Stephen. After what I've seen of these two this year, it might be time to find replacements. If not, Hunter can still be improved in the passing game, and running backs will still find tracks in the middle, with Stephen hypothetically standing in the spot with three techniques.
The Vikings must find a new left guard
Photo: AP Photo / David Dermer, File
With regard to this, there's some good news: The Vikings don't have nearly as many holes in their offensive line anymore. Ezra Cleveland played well on the right. If Riley Reiff isn't on the team next year due to the Vikings' salary cap, Cleveland could end up on the left. I think the best offensive unit the team can have right now is Reiff (left) and Cleveland (right). Whether or not the Vikings can keep Reiff, the team must find a replacement for Dakota Dozier. He hasn't looked like an offensive lineman from the starting line this season. Unfortunately, Dru doesn't have Samia either, so it looks like Minnesota may need to find a conscript or free agent to replace.
The team has to rely more on the passing game
Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sport
In the first match between the Bears and the Vikings, Minnesota won without being successful in the game. This was a huge departure from the victories over the Lions and Packers immediately before. In this game, Dalvin Cook could find more space, but it didn't matter because of the defensive battles. The Vikings need to recognize that more focus on passing leads to more points. Even teams like Carolina can finish Minnesota's runner game if it's a priority. Cook is great, but with how badly that defense played the Vikings can't just rely on the running game. I know, I know the team will bring the players back next year, but the defensive back group might miss Anthony Harris because his level of play has a decent contract. There is reason to believe that passport coverage will remain relatively the same and, without Harris, may even deteriorate. The offense must be higher octane for the next season. Especially when you consider how a heavy workload affects a return. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will be of great help.
Minnesota should move on from TE Kyle Rudolph
Photo: Dylan Buell / Getty Images
Rudolph has a big contract and the Vikings just have more pressing needs right now than a close end. It's not up to him as a player, but Rudolph probably shouldn't be on next season's schedule for the team to fill other holes. Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin have both played well this year so it makes sense to save money in the cap area and cut Rudolph.
The Vikings may need to upgrade several special team positions
Photo: Jim Mone / AP Photo
Minnesota's return just didn't make it this year. K.J. Osborn and Chad Beebe didn't have much influence in the second leg. Beebe had a muffed punt and Osborn had problems in that area as well. Viking kicker Dan Bailey had a nice rebound game but with his kick against the jaguars and buccaneers, it might be time to look for other options.
The Vikings are stuck with Kirk Cousins for the time being
Photo: Harrison Barden / USA TODAY Sports
I want to anticipate this by saying that cousins can't bear most of the blame for this season. I also think he's a good quarterback. I used to think that if Cousins kept advancing, he could be the answer to Minnesota's deep playoff run. I don't think so anymore. With the way this team is built, the Vikings need a more consistent quarterback than cousins. Yes, he played great games. Since goodbye week he's had more good than bad. But he still had that game against the Falcons. He still had that game against the Colts. When under pressure, he struggles to dodge the defenders. I think Cousins is - at worst - still an above average quarterback in the NFL. However, with how important the quarterback position is, it would be up to the Vikings to choose other options. Minnesota is likely to be tied to cousins by its contract until at least 2022, and likely until 2023. However, the team can find inexpensive quarterbacks in the NFL draft. The Eagles are probably glad they did that this year. Cousins aren't the team's problem. I used to think it was even a long-term solution to the quarterback situation. I think he has had too many down games to keep for years to come. The replacement begins with the NFL draft.
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