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The Minnesota Vikings are sticking with quarterback Nick Mullens despite what Kevin O’Connell called some “critical errors” in a Week 15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
But as Minnesota treads the Mullens-led offense into the final three weeks of the season, there have been questions of why rookie Jaren Hall, who looked sharp in a Week 9 start against the Atlanta Falcons, has not been considered to start.
KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on December 19 that Mullens is on a leash with his turnover struggles a well-known characteristic of his game, but the team is skittish on handing the starting reigns to Hall.
“I’ve heard there’s reluctance to go with the rookie,” Wolfson said on SKOR North’s “Mackey and Judd” podcast. “As long as the playoffs are attainable they’re not ready to throw Jaren Hall out there.”
There’s only so much you can prepare for until you’re hit in the mouth, and throughout Mullens’ career, he’s shown to make significant errors in the heat of the moment.
Mullens threw a pair of costly interceptions from inside the Bengals’ 25-yard line in the first half that effectively took points off the board. One interception, he tried to get rid of the ball as he was taken to the ground and threw it into the lap of Bengals defensive lineman B.J. Hill. The situational awareness to take the sack wasn’t there despite Mullens’ six years in the league.
The Vikings will have a new playing surface next year.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has approved a $1.3 million bid to replace the silt-film turf at U.S. Bank Stadium with a monofilament version called Act Global Xtreme Turf DX. Silt-film turf has been associated with an elevated number of injuries and U.S. Bank Stadium is one of three venues — Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati are the others — still using it.
The Vikings will install the same turf at their practice facility and worked with the MSFA, which owns and operates the stadium, to select the winning bid.
The work in both venues will begin after the season ends and is expected to be complete in time for the 2024 stadium.
Kirk Cousins told ESPN’s Adam Schefter in a recent podcast appearance, that his wife jokingly stated he could possibly be back from an Achilles tear if the Vikings made a run to the Super Bowl. O’Connell was hesitant to go that far but did say that Cousins has said he “feels ahead of schedule” as he works back from his season-ending injury.
Marcus Davenport has been in the injury room after he needed surgery to repair a high-ankle sprain in the Vikings’ Week 6 win over the Bears. The Vikings head coach didn’t provide much on an eventual return, stating Davenport “continues to work through it.”
“It’s kind of a week-to-week thing. He has progressed well through the rehab. What that looks like, as far as when we can possibly open his window and maybe get him back. We are getting later on in the season,” O’Connell said. “Hopefully we can get him back at some point. I just can’t tell you right now when that’s going to be. These injuries can be tricky.”
After the 2020 season the struggling Lions tore their roster down and traded quarterback Matthew Stafford. It was general manager Brad Holmes’ plan to completely rebuild a team that had been bumbling around for years after firing Jim Caldwell.
Holmes’ plan has gone exactly as the Lions would have dreamed when they canned Patricia. Over the last three years they have drafted foundational pieces around quarterback Jared Goff and made huge gains from year to year, going 9-8 in 2022 and currently leading the division at 10-4.
Meanwhile the Vikings went a different direction. After firing Zimmer, they elected a “competitive rebuild” path, though it didn’t actually become rebuild-y until last offseason. For the 2022 season they made every effort to reach the heights they hoped when signing Kirk Cousins in 2018.
That brings us to Sunday’s game. The Vikings and Lions are clashing at different places in their long-term plans. In Minnesota, beating Detroit would put them on the doorstep of the playoffs.
The bigger implications of the two games in the final three weeks between these clubs is something we may end up looking back on in the same way we can now see the butterfly effect of the ‘22 draft or the Hockenson trade. For example, if the Lions kick the Vikings out of the postseason, it will push the Vikings up the draft board and possibly bump the Lions to better playoff position. If the Vikings win both games, the Lions will look at their successful season as more middling among contenders rather than a huge success.
There’s another question as a backdrop to this week’s contest: Where are these teams headed long term?
Cousins has been consistent over the years in saying that he’d love to spend the rest of his career with the Vikings. He reiterated that idea when speaking with Schefter.
“I would love to be back in Minnesota,” Cousins said. “Hopefully we can make that happen. Tends to be more of a February, March conversation. When we get to late February, the (NFL) Combine, March, try to see how 2024’s going to shake out.”
“The next time I meet with the surgeon will probably be late January, early February, and he expects that to be making the transition from walking to jogging,” Cousins said. “From there, eventually be able to put on a football cleat and make some more football movements.”
“We have until next September, so there’s no rush, but I would love to be back and miss as few practices in the spring as possible.”
Cousins said he reached out to Aaron Rodgers, who famously tore his Achilles very early into the Jets’ season opener this year, just a couple days after his own injury.
“I was just able to ask him about his rhythm, his routine, I wanted to hear his habits. How are you spending your time? What’s your best use of time? What are the modalities that you’ve found to be really effective? It was just helpful. ... There’s been minimal communication, but still some connection there. Fun to have a guy who’s two months ahead of me. I can kind of have this road map to follow and learn from.”
20: R1 P20 EDGE Bralen Trice - Washington 6’4” 274
52: R2 P20 C Jackson Powers-Johnson - Oregon Oregon 6’3” 320
120: R4 P20 WR Malachi Corley - Western Kentucky 5’11” 210
127: R4 P27 S Malachi Moore - Alabama 6’0” 198
161: R5 P25 LB Marist Liufau - Notre Dame 6’2” 239
162: R5 P26 DL DeWayne Carter - Duke 6’3” 305
176: R6 P1 RB Dillon Johnson - Washington 6’0” 218
187: R6 P12 QB Joe Milton III - Tennessee 6’5” 235
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