The Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings will play on Sunday afternoon, and that means it’s time for five questions and five answers with the SB Nation counterpart for the Vikings, Daily Norseman. So, without wasting any more of your time, here are the five questions and answers for each side, starting with the five questions asked of Field Gulls.
1. There’s obviously been a ton of national news coverage about Kirk Cousins and the vaccine. Does it seem like it is it to the point where it’s a distraction, or is it just something the media can point at repeatedly for a team that has lost its first two games by a combined four points?
Uh...can I pass on this question? No, because there are only five questions and you’re genuinely curious about it? OK fine.
The vaccination status of Cousins has certainly been a “thing” for the past few months to say the least. His comments about plexiglass and “doing whatever it takes” to stay safe (except for, well, you know, that one really big thing he could do to help stay safe) have made him a pretty easy target. While Cousins remains the lightning rod for most of the media scrutiny, he certainly isn’t the only notable Vikings player with certain views regarding the vaccine. The Vikings had the lowest vaccination rate of any NFL team back in August, and there are at least a handful of big-name players that don’t seem to be changing their stance on the matter anytime soon. It has exasperated lots of fans, media, and Mike Zimmer alike.
That said, I don’t think that has played any role in the Vikings’ 0-2 start, and I don’t think it’s much of a distraction for now. There doesn’t appear to be any major infighting over the issue yet. However, if some of these players miss playing time on the COVID-19 Reserve list later on this season, then all bets are off.
2. The Vikings are opening a stretch of 11 games that includes a pair of games against the Lions and 9 games against teams that appear to be playoff contenders. Is this, in Week 3, a must win game for Minnesota?
I can’t use the term “must win” quite yet since there are still 14 games to go after Sunday’s matchup. But the outcome of the game against the Seahawks will certainly affect how most fans feel about the prospects of the 2021 season. If the Vikings pull off the upset at home, then the first two losses can more easily be brushed aside as flukes. After all, they lost those games by a combined four points; they’re literally two plays from being 2-0 right now. However, if Seattle continues their recent dominance over Minnesota and the Vikings head into the Kevin Stefanski Homecoming Game at 0-3, the torches and pitchforks will be coming out in full force. The Vikings have one of the toughest schedules in the league based on 2020 opponent winning percentage. They can’t afford to fall much further behind with so many tough games left on their slate.
3. Danielle Hunter has been a monster so far this year (4 sacks, 9 pressures and 4 TFL). Has it been anything in particular that has allowed him to start off so strong, or is it just him doing his thing and Seahawks fans don’t have anything extra to worry about for Russell Wilson this weekend?
It’s pretty much just Hunter doing his thing. He seems 100% healthy after missing all of last year with a neck injury, and he’s basically picking up right where he left off—as one of the better edge rushers in the NFL. He carved through blockers with a flourish like John Wick throughout Training Camp and the preseason and has started the regular season just as strong. Like D.K. Metcalf, his action figure physique and athleticism make him a constant mismatch. So yes, Wilson and Seahawks fans need to be worried about Hunter, especially with the health of some of their offensive line in question this week. But it’s probably just the standard amount of worry. You know, like how Vikings fans are absolutely terrified every time Wilson has the ball in the fourth quarter.
4. Neither the Vikings nor the Seahawks had a snap played by a drafted rookie in Week 2. For Seattle this was largely because of the fact that they drafted only three players this season, but the Vikings drafted 11 and not a single one of those players saw the field last week. First, what is behind that? And second, should fans expect the same in Week 3?
On its face, zero of the 11 draft picks playing an offensive or defensive snap last week looks absolutely devastating for the Vikings, a team that has constantly been trying to toe the line of rebuilding while also contending for the past several years. But most of the absences can be explained away in one form or another. First round pick Christian Darrisaw would likely be starting by now, especially with how poorly Rashod Hill has performed at left tackle, but he’s still working his way back from injury setbacks suffered in Training Camp. Third round quarterback Kellen Mond was always a developmental pick, and the Vikings seem to be giving him the Jordan Love treatment in year 1. Wyatt Davis was supposed to compete for a starting guard position, but the emergence of Oli Udoh as a serviceable right guard—which is a HUGE deal in these parts based on what has been trotted out in previous seasons—has allowed the Vikings to bring Davis along more slowly. Kene Nwangwu showed promise, especially as a returner, but he got hurt and had to start the season on IR. Defensive end Janarius Robinson went out for the season in late August. Ihmir Smith-Marsette looked like a contender for the third wide receiver role, but the emergence of second-year wideout K.J. Osborn has kept Smith-Marsette on the bench. Jalen Twyman got freaking shot before the season and is on the NFI list this season.
Even after all of that, yes, it’s pretty disappointing to see no major contributions from rookies through the first two weeks. Chazz Surratt and Camryn Bynum have only played special teams. Third round defensive end Patrick Jones II was a healthy scratch Week 1 and hasn’t played at all yet. With the Vikings’ “stars and scrubs” approach to roster building, they need at least a few of their draft picks to make significant contributions this season if they hope to be a playoff contender.
5. Since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014 the Vikings have alternated making and missing the playoffs every season. It’s early, but that pattern could break this year and it would be consecutive seasons without making the postseason. Would that be enough to put Zimmer on the hot seat, or is his job secure?
The “Odd Year Zimmer” joke has been around for quite a while among the Vikings faithful, so the 0-2 start in 2021 has been especially disheartening. The Wilf family has always shown a ton of support for Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman, but I’m not sure either will survive to see another even year with the Vikings if things continue to go sideways. Throughout his tenure in Minnesota, Zimmer has had the kind of bad luck that would make Theon Greyjoy seem like he won the lottery in comparison. You could make a five-part 30 for 30 about all the extremely unfortunate events that Zimmer has had to endure since his arrival in 2014. But in the end, the NFL is, was, and always will be a results-driven business. There is a sizable contingent of Vikings fans that is already done with him. If Zimmer breaks his pattern and misses the postseason, I think there’s a very good chance that the Vikings blow everything up in 2022.
To read the Field Gulls answers, check out Daily Norseman’s column.