Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Vikings

Key returning players: Kirk Cousins

New additions: Sean Mannion

Key losses: Trevor Siemian

When the Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a fully-guaranteed, 3-year $84 million deal in 2018, he was viewed as the possible missing piece on a Super Bowl-caliber roster. One year and one playoff absence later, the pressure is mounting for the veteran quarterback, as well as the key decision makers in Minneapolis.

For his part, Cousins had a very good opening season for the Vikings. He set career-high marks in touchdown passes, completions and completion percentage. He threw for almost 4,300 yards. However, ten interceptions, seven lost fumbles and a shaky offensive line proved too much for Cousins to overcome, and his career quarterback record remains below .500 at 34-37-2. For a Vikings team with designs on winning it all, Cousins must do more.

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In addition, Cousins never seemed to be on the same page as first year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was fired with three games left in the season. DeFilippo was a highly coveted coordinator candidate last year following his Super Bowl win with the Philadelphia Eagles as quarterbacks coach.

He and Cousins weren’t able to elevate the Vikings’ offense to the next level together though, as the team put up just 21.6 points per game prior to his dismissal.

After Kevin Stefanski took over as OC for the final three games after being promoted from quarterbacks coach, the offense improved to the tune of 26 points per contest in their final three games. Stefanski was retained for 2019, and the Vikings will look for more improvement from and synergy between Cousins and him.

The Vikings made many changes to their offensive line this offseason, both in the draft and in free agency in hopes of giving Cousins a cleaner pocket and more time to let loose on his accurate deep ball. He will continued to be aided by an excellent pair of receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The running game remains a work in progress. It’s up to Cousins to put it all together in year two and live up to the Vikings’ massive investment.

Minnesota let backup quarterback Trevor Siemian walk in free agency after he did not throw a pass for the Vikings in 2018. He was replaced by veteran Sean Mannion, who has only appeared in 13 career games and has not thrown a touchdown pass.