2021 NFC North preview: How do the Detroit Lions stack up?

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell (Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press) /
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Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Minnesota Vikings offense, Part II

For the Minnesota Vikings offense, behind the uber-talented, do-everything Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison has proved a viable option should Cook suffer any prolonged injuries. Former Detroit Lions runner, Ameer Abdullah is the third man, and two rookies have been brought in to audition for backup roles, Kene Nwangwu and Asim Rose.

Jefferson and Thielen have Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Blake Proehl, giving Cousins some depth to throw to at wide receiver. No one spectacular but they seem competent as fill-in’s.

The tight ends behind Smith are Tyler Conklin, who is reported to be looking at a bigger role in ’21, rookie Zach Davidson, and Brandon Dillon. Smith has been on the rise since outproducing veteran Kyle Rudolph last year.

The biggest task facing the Vikings is improving the offensive line. Spielman has spent some draft capital addressing the talent there but it hasn’t paid off yet. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, Round 1, and guard Wyatt Davis, Round 3, were brought in to address the inconsistency and lack of athleticism. Brian O’Neill has the right tackle spot nailed down after a solid 2020.

The other three spots are less certain, with second-year guard-tackle Ezra Cleveland playing right guard, Davis at left guard, and Garrett Bradbury at center. Center-guard combo, Mason Cole, has a shot to push out Davis or Bradbury if he can provide some better pass protection than his counterparts have to date. While all have been decent run-blockers, none are good in pass-pro.

Returning guard Dakota Dozier is in the race, as well, if we’re being honest. Oli Udoh, Rashod Hiill, and Dru Samia are the main depth behind the men vying for starter snaps.

With the line in flux and Spielman starting a quarterback controversy that didn’t seem necessary, it may be hard for the Minnesota Vikings to duplicate their Top-5 offensive numbers this season. The talent is there on the line but unless that gets figured out quickly, their inability to protect Cousins will be a far greater problem than anything Cousins cannot do by himself.

In summary, while the Vikings look to be the main risers in the division on paper, they have some issues to navigate and they have to get everyone onto the same page, metaphorically. They probably have the most talent if Rodgers is absent from Green Bay for any reason, and Zimmer and his staff are the longest-tenured coaches in the division by a distance.

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We would be surprised to see the Minnesota Vikings not get back to a winning record in ’21 and contend for the division as long as they stay healthier and no major problems arise with the line or quarterback room, which are both talented.