Kirk Cousins isn’t afraid of embracing a throwback approach.
The quarterback lost his No. 1 receiver via offseason trade last month, but he’s not stressing over it. He instead thinks adding a tight end or a fullback to the offense could be an ideal — and undoubtedly traditional — way to run an offense for his Vikings.
“Quite frankly, I’m someone who is a proponent of a two or three tight end offense, of having a fullback in the game — especially when you have C.J. Ham,” Cousins said, via The Athletic’s Chad Graff. “There’s no rule that says we have to play four or five wide receivers at a time.”
Cousins is right, there is no such rule, even if most teams are doing so and defenses are reacting by primarily playing sub-package defenses these days. Why not throw it back to the 1970s and run it between the tackles? Heck, why not have Cousins run it himself?
“I think I have an athleticism there that I haven’t really tapped in to,” Cousins said in reference to him running the ball, per ZoneCoverage.com’s Sam Ekstrom.
The quarterback tapped into it a little back in his time in Washington, where he rushed for 13 touchdowns between 2015-2017. He was most effective running the read option in the red zone, opting to keep the ball on the read and scooting into the end zone. The longest touchdown run of his career came from 19 yards out in 2016.
Of course, running the ball as a quarterback is mostly reserved for the likes of Lamar Jackson, so we’ll pivot away from the intermittently viable option back to the one that relies on running back Dalvin Cook. Minnesota demonstrated its preference for the two-TE set in 2019, running more plays out of this personnel grouping (34.9 percent) than any other, according to Next Gen Stats. The second most-frequent grouping — a two-back set — follows that line of thinking, coming in at second at 21.9 percent.
Thanks to the presence of the fullback Ham and two tight ends with complementary skill sets in Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr., the Vikings can do this effectively. They did well enough to earn a wild-card bid and an upset playoff win over the Saints. And with Gary Kubiak moving from assistant head coach/offensive advisor to offensive coordinator to direct a play-action-reliant unit in 2020, we can expect more of these sets in Minnesota’s run-first offense.
All of this made for a comfortable situation for Cousins to re-up his contract with the Vikings, signing a two-year, $66 million extension in March.
This makes for an offensive situation that we can project pretty easily. The Vikings will again pound the football on the ground with Cook, who’s entering a contract year, and build out of that with a play-action attack that will utilize Rudolph, Smith and receivers Adam Thielen and Olabisi Johnson as pass-catching options. With Kubiak calling the shots, Vikings fans can expect their team to again run it back — perhaps with a little bit of Cousins’ wheels sprinkled in.