The 2022 NFL season finds itself in the rearview mirror.
It may not quite be game day, but it is certainly game week. The hard discussions last week were revolving around the harsh realities of roster cuts. This week the hard discussions will revolve around how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stop the passing attack of the Minnesota Vikings and the Vikings will have to scheme against a stout Buccaneers defense that really didn’t change all that much especially compared to Tampa’s offense.
A Retrospective Glimpse Before the Season Opener
Given that it’s the first week of the season, we do have to look in the rearview mirror as we outline the matchups we’ll be seeing go down at U.S. Bank’s season opener September 10th at noon CT.
As we approach this first game we’ll be going through all the juicy matchups taking time this week to post on all the things to look for when the Gjallarhorn sounds for the first time in 2023.
Today, we’ll be spending our energy focusing on the Vikings passing attack before we size up how they’ll matchup against the Buccaneers’ passing defense.
Kirk Cousins: Stability Amidst a Sea of Change
At QB1, fresh off his movie star debut on Quarterback, Kirk Cousins finds himself with a first in his 6 years with the Vikings. This offseason he didn’t have to learn a new offensive system as it’s Cousins first time in the purple and cold having the same playcaller in the headset for consecutive seasons. With that in mind, Cousins is hoping to return to his Pro Bowl form that had him end up ranked 41st on the NFL’s top 100 list, a list voted on by players across the league. Cousins has a lot to be proud of looking back on the 2023 season, but Vikings fans certainly hope he keeps the offense on the field more this year after throwing a career high 14 interceptions in 2022. While a sign of a more aggressive Cousins in the Kevin O’Connell offensive system, Vikings fans have good reason for wanting to see more of those passes end up in their receivers hands in 2023. Why wouldn’t they after Cousins threw for 29 touchdowns, a 2nd highest in his career 4,547 passing yards, and had a quarterback rating of 92.5.
The Justin Jefferson Phenomenon: Aspiring for New Heights
Even the best of leads will always benefit from a stellar supporting cast. Justin Jefferson, the phenom wide receiver who found himself at #2 on that 2023 NFL’s top 100 list, certainly sees himself as another lead. The numbers don’t lie. In 2022, Jefferson had 128 receptions, 1,809 yards, and 8 touchdowns. In 2023, Jefferson hopes to reach the ever-so coveted 2k mark for receiving yards with Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver Cooper Kupp being a trailblazer in that regard when he became the first receiver in NFL history to go for over 2,000 receiving yards as he finished the 2021 NFL season throughout the regular season and playoffs that helped win the Rams Super Bowl. A daunting task certainly, but Jefferson certainly wants to be the first to break the 2k mark in the regular season something Kupp needed the playoffs as well to break. The good news for JJ? The Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2021 was Kevin O’Connell, the 2nd year Vikings head coach and offensive playcaller.
The Hockenson Impact: From Motor City to Twin Cities
While Jefferson will have his hands full, the Vikings will hope Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson isn’t weighed down by his pocketbook having just reset the market for NFL tight ends becoming the highest paid tight end in NFL history. A surprising interdivision trade deadline deal that sent the Iowa boy from the Motor City to the Twin Cities making it a noticeably easier 4 hour commute for Hockenson’s parents in Iowa. Despite not arriving to the Twin Cities until Tuesday of week 8, Hockenson wasted no time proving the Vikings right on trading a 2nd round pick for him catching all 9 of his targets starting off his journey in the purple and gold with a crisp 70 yard stat line. Between his time in Detroit and Minnesota, Hockenson finished the 2022 season with 86 receptions, 914 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
The Ascendance of K.J. Osborn: From Pariah to Mainstay
Back to the wide receiver room we go, Jefferson isn’t sitting in the room by himself after all. He is without an old friend Adam Thielen, the longtime star Vikings receiver who now plays for the Carolina Panthers. Really shouldn’t be much of a fall off at all though because what a story it’s been for Jefferson’s 2020 draft classmate K.J. Osborn. In 2020, Vikings fans were calling for his head on special teams. Boy, did Osborn prove us wrong. Flash forward to the start of 2023, Osborn has found himself ahead of 2023 first round pick Jordan Addison as WR2 on the Vikings depth chart heading into the season. A testament to the hard work Osborn has put in as he’s become one of the more reliable receivers in the NFL. Osborn finished the 2022 season with 60 receptions, 650 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
A Glimmer of Promise: The Jordan Addison Factor
We alluded to him earlier, but I can’t write an article about the Vikings pass offense without mention of the 23rd overall selection in the 2023 NFL draft. Former USC and former Pitt star Jordan Addison could quickly find himself in that WR2 conversation. Of the first round wide receivers, legendary former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith says Addison “has the highest ceiling”. Addison has a great mix of athleticism and route running. I highly recommend watching some Jordan Addison college highlights because this duo of Jefferson-Addison should be special to watch.
The Road Ahead: Upcoming Preview on Buccaneers’ Defense
As the Minnesota Vikings’ offense prepares itself for battle, tomorrow we’ll delve into how this fortified unit will clash with the indomitable defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stay tuned, as the gridiron awaits this epic matchup.
The stage is set, and as the Vikings prepare to unfurl their playbook, one thing is abundantly clear: this season will be one for the annals of NFL history.