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Danecdotes: Expect small improvements from new-look Vikings

The 2022 season already feels different for the Vikings, but I don't expect it to look too different.

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock, Inc. / Minnesota Vikings
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Here we are, just a few short weeks from the Minnesota Vikings’ season opener.

I feel like this is the first time in several years that the Minnesota fanbase is going into a new season with a healthy dose of optimism. Personally, I love to see it.

The main reason for this is the arrival of new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. After the Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer era seemed to start wearing thin – for the owners, the team and the fans – Adofo-Mensah was hired and immediately began saying all the right things about changing the culture within the clubhouse.

His first major decision was to bring in O’Connell, fresh off of winning a Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.

Once those two set up shop in Minnesota, they started making changes, and people began to speculate if maybe this was finally the group to bring Minnesota some hardware.

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One of the team’s biggest weaknesses throughout the Zimmer era was the offensive line. This offseason, the Vikings drafted sure-fire starter Ed Ingram and signed four others in an effort to keep the quarterback on his feet.

The feeling was the Vikings needed help in pass rushing, especially if Danielle Hunter can’t stay healthy. Signing veterans Za’Darius Smith to a three-year deal and Jordan Hicks to a two-year deal should help with that.

The biggest change, however, may just be the team’s demeanor. Athletes have been saying in interviews how they are having fun and are excited for the direction the team is headed. Of course, a few losses in the regular season may change that demeanor, but for now it’s kind of nice.

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Despite all of these changes, however, I feel like a good number of things are seemingly staying the same.

For instance, I worry the secondary is still a bit of an issue. Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith should be solid as they always are, but I think a lot of pressure is about to be placed on rookie corners Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr.

Maybe that is not a bad thing. Maybe they are up to the challenge. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

I think some things staying the same would be just fine though. If the stars align, I think star receiver Justin Jefferson is about to have a monster of a season. The third-year wideout has emphatically established himself as a premier receiver in the NFL. I’m expecting some crazy stats from him in 2022, followed by an utterly massive contract extension

And of course, the big question mark in all of this is the man under center.

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Kirk Cousins enters his fifth year as this team’s starting quarterback. For those of you keeping score at home, that is the longest period of time the Vikings have had a single quarterback since the days of Daunte Culpepper, who was traded away 17 years ago.

In three of the past four seasons, Cousins has thrown for at least 4,200 yards, 30 touchdowns and has had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of about 3 to 1. Those are great numbers, but the team just can’t get over the hump with him at QB. He is under contract for just this year, so I expect some make-or-break performances from him.

But if he is gone after this year, what next? No other quarterback on the roster – Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond and newly acquired Nick Mullens – is likely to be the guy for this team in the future, in my opinion.

In fact, I think Mannion or Mond will be off the roster in the next week or so, but all of that is a topic for another time.

All-in-all, I think this is going to be an interesting season where the team seems in a better place with higher morale, but improvements to their record will be minimal.

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Dan Determan

End of season prediction: The Vikings will go 10-7 (with one victory over the Packers) and will be a wild card team that will maybe – just maybe – get to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated.

But if they surprise us all and win the division, I will happily eat crow.

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Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.

Opinion by Dan Determan
Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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