The Minnesota Vikings wrap up mandatory minicamp on Thursday, so the next time we will hear from new quarterback Kirk Cousins will be in training camp. Here’s five things we can take away from his comments following Wednesday’s practice…
Learning to communicate with his new receivers
One of the key parts to OTAs and minicamp for Kirk Cousins is learning the nuances of his star receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. On Wednesday, Cousins and Thielen spent time during practice talking about the details of a route, going back and forth pantomiming how it was supposed to be run.
Following a practice that Cousins called “really frustrating” because of a pair of red zone interceptions, he talked about learning to have exchanges with receivers.
“It is a process of saying, ‘hey, this is the way I’ve done if for six years, you’ve done it a different way for five years, let’s try to talk about why you’ve had success, why I’ve had success,'” Cousins said. “Let’s find some middle ground, let’s decide whether I’m going to learn your way, you’re going to learn my way. That’s the process I’m talking about. Every route, every concept, really we could talk about each individual one.”
Thielen and Diggs have done their fair share of adapting to new QBs. Over the last three years they have worked with Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. The Vikings’ new QB said he is pleased that back-and-forths like Wednesday’s conversation with Thielen are happening.
“That’s where when I say I’m really excited about the locker room and the players I work with,” Cousins said. “It’s moments like that where I feel really good about the communication, that they’re hearing you and you’re hearing them.”
Chemistry with the O-line
The Vikings have used some different combinations on the offensive line throughout OTAs and minicamp, but none of them have included starting center Pat Elflein because he continues to rehab from an injury suffered in the NFC Championship game. Cousins has been working with Nick Easton under center. He discussed how he and Elflein are building a rapport without him being on the field yet.
“Pat’s locker is two or three down from mine, so many times we’ll debrief after practice, or in the morning I’ll say that this came up yesterday and ask what you would have done in that situation that we talked about after practice,” Cousins said. “We catch up with each other now and then, but I’m sure that when he gets healthy and is back at camp there will be a lot of catching up to do because we haven’t been getting those reps together every day.”
Taking some time to recharge
The team will have a nice break from the end of minicamp until they fully ramp up at training camp. While Cousins said he will be working on some things with his iPad, he also pointed out the importance of taking some time off before going full speed ahead.
“Last year we got to like Week Two, and because of how much I was grinding all camp and even in the summer, I felt like we were in Week 12,” Cousins said. “I couldn’t believe that we were only in Week Two because I had treated July and August like it was game day. You have to pace yourself a little bit. Because I feel a little behind the eight ball and am learning the offense, I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath, and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks before week one.
Dealing with expectations
With an $84 million contract and Super Bowl aspirations, Cousins will be facing the highest expectations — and presumably the highest level of scrutiny from the NFL at large — that he’s ever faced in his career before. On Wednesday, he was asked about his approach to handling a new level of pressure.
“I just try to ignore the noise and not even know what’s going on or being said. That’s usually the best route,” he said. “I know what I’m being coached to do, I know what I have to do, so I don’t need the outside to tell me because I have accountability here and I’m hard on myself. I’ll always be aware of where I need to play better, and sometimes maybe that I’m not playing well enough, but I know on the inside with what I’m being coached to do I’m actually doing exactly what I’m being asked to do. Other times I know when we’ve won in games I’ve played, I didn’t play very well, but everybody’s patting me on the back because to the outside it looks like I did the right thing, and I know deep down that I’m not where I need to be yet.”
Learning the Vikings’ locker room
On Tuesday, Mike Zimmer talked about the reasons none of his players who are awaiting contract extensions chose to sit out as others around the league like Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack did. Cousins talked about his observations of how the team avoids distractions.
“When I talked to Eric Kendricks and congratulated him on signing his extension, he said, ‘Kirk, really, I decided to sign and I wanted to be here because it’s all about winning here. There’s no other agendas. Let’s just win football games,'” Cousins said. “He looked at me and said, “you’ll see, you’ll see when we get there in the season and you’ll know.” It’s great to hear that from a team leader like that, and minicamp reflects that. I felt that quite a bit day in and day out, and it’s why they’ve won in the past. Hopefully it gives us a great chance to win in the future.”