Sid Hartman As the Vikings started training camp, with their first preseason game at New Orleans coming next Friday, owner Zygi Wilf was asked what he expects this season out of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Wilf didn’t point to touchdown totals or passing yardage marks.
“I expect to be in the playoffs this year,” Wilf said. “And, as every year, reach for that championship.”
The Wilf family bought the Vikings in 2005. Since that time, they have been the best ownership group in town when it comes to spending money and trying to win a title.
This season they have $204.2 million in active contracts — according to Spotrac.com, that number ranks fourth in the NFL behind the Browns ($212.4 million), Colts ($211.6 million) and 49ers ($208.8 million) — as the front office and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski have done everything they can to keep the players they need to contend for a championship.
And while Cousins might be the focal point of the 2019 season, the Wilfs also had to sign off on several big coaching changes that cost the team a lot of money.
Zimmer ends first week of Vikings workouts by challenging defense Vikings' tackle Collins carted off the field at practice with left leg injury The first name on that list is surely assistant head coach Gary Kubiak, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Broncos to conclude the 2015 season. He couldn’t have come cheap.
So far, Wilf likes what he sees from the coaching additions.
“They are great, they’re really helping with our players and we are ready to go,” he said. “Every time you have people with the intelligence, the football intelligence, as these guys have, it rubs off on everybody and everybody understands what to do. There is more supervision and more teaching and everybody can get better.”
When it comes to their offseason with player personnel, Wilf thought the team made the best moves they could.
“We got better in every area of our game,” he said, “and I think we’re up for this year to be a good year.”
So how do the Vikings improve on their 8-7-1 record last season?
“Win the close games,” Wilf said.
The 2018 squad lost only one game by more than two touchdowns — an embarrassing 27-6 home loss to the Bills in Week 3 — and shows how small the margin of error can be when it comes to a successful season.
But Wilf said that if last year was a disappointment, it has only made him more excited for the start of this season.
“We are going into our 15th year and I’m always optimistic but this year I am especially optimistic about the direction we’re going,” he said. “I’m looking for a good year.”
Dennison’s early take
While Kubiak may have been the biggest name coaching hire, the rest of the staff that filled in behind him were are familiar with his style of play, including offensive line coach and run game coordinator Rick Dennison.
Dennison and Kubiak played together for eight seasons with the Broncos and have coached together for 15 seasons.
Dennison will be working with a vastly revamped offensive line under a completely new system. How well the line fares is a key part of the season and so far, Dennison likes what he sees.
“Each place is its own challenge and its own reward,” he said. “I think the guys here just go and in general, they all work hard. Most offensive linemen do, but they are very eager to do what you tell them. This group has been really, really good about once I instruct them on something, do a technique and they are right to the letter. They do a great job.”
He gave an early breakdown of what he sees from each expected starter.
Riley Reiff is a veteran, knows what he’s doing, very powerful,” Dennison said. “Go to the other side,
Brian O’Neill, very athletic. We have young guys who are athletic.
Pat Elflein has played a lot of football at center and we have moved him to guard and he has done a great job.
Josh Kline, a veteran, knows what he is doing, very good experience and been around some very good teams. We drafted our guy
Garrett Bradbury, who has really adjusted well.”
What has he seen from Bradbury so far as he adjusts to the pro game?
“He has been playing good,” Dennison said. “He is learning every day and if he makes a mistake, he corrects it, quickly.”
While several football analysts ranked the Vikings offensive line as one of the worst in the league in 2018, Dennison said he’s unconcerned with anything from last season.
“I can’t really go on much,” he said. “I just watch them as players and you try to evaluate them and I’m just trying to work forward from there. I know it will be a good offensive line, yes, sir.”
Twins draft update
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey assessed how his 2019 draft picks are faring as they start their pro careers.
“Some of those guys have gotten off to great starts,” he said. “A young guy like [third-round pick, No. 90 overall] Spencer Steer went out to Elizabethton and got off to a great start and has already been promoted up to Cedar Rapids. [First-round pick, No. 13 overall] Keoni Cavaco started out down in the GCL [Gulf Coast League] and has had a little bit of an injury issue early on, nothing major, but we’re slowing him down to make sure he’s in a good place. [First-round pick, No. 39 overall] Matt Wallner, the local kid [from Forest Lake], has played really well out of the gates here.”
Steer, a shortstop, is hitting .328 with seven RBI and 13 runs scored in 15 games since being called up to Class A Cedar Rapids.
Cavaco, also a shortstop, is back in the lineup and hitting .175 through 18 games with the GCL Twins, including 26 strikeouts in 63 at-bats.
Wallner is having better luck in Elizabethon. The outfielder is hitting .289 with three homers, 19 RBI and 22 runs in 37 games.
• On Wednesday, Jose Berrios became only the sixth pitcher in baseball history to strike out 11 batters while completing seven innings or less using 81 pitches or fewer. Berrios allowed only two hits in defeating the Marlins 2-1. The other pitchers to accomplish the feat are: Blake Snell earlier this season for Tampa Bay, Chris Sale last season with Boston, Greg Maddux with Atlanta in 2000 and Matt Perisho with Texas and Kevin Millwood with Atlanta in 1999.
• Former Twins reliever Blake Parker made his first appearance with the Phillies on Thursday and struck out two and gave up two hits in one inning of relief. The Phillies beat the Giants 10-2.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • [email protected]
Sid Hartman is a sports columnist. He also can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m.
[email protected] 612-673-4452 SidHartman 38SHOW COMMENTS More with this story Zimmer ends first week of Vikings workouts by challenging defense Vikings' tackle Collins carted off the field at practice with left leg injury Vikings day at camp: Defense perks up during afternoon practice NEXT IN SPORTS Twins add ex-major leaguer Brandon Barnes to Class AAA Rochester Why does everyone love to hate Edina? Legendary pro wrestler Harley Race dies at 76 Buhai stretches lead to 3 shots at Women's British Open Uber-rich Real Madrid needs more than money to win where it counts
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Thanks.... Zygi is finally speaking up ... playoffs are his bare minimum expectation for this season..... he did say also contending for a championship so it makes me think more than just making playoffs.....
righteousvikesfan: Why can't the Vikings ever play smart football for four quarters in a game that matters like tonight against the Bears. Cook fumbles on the Bears 15 yard line, Cousins over throws Diggs for a touchdown, then threw two interceiptions (pick six), game over
Nov 18, 2018 23:04:21 GMT -5
righteousvikesfan: What type of tackling does the Vikings defense teach, it seems when the other quarter back comes out of the pocket and not slide someone should take his head off. I am so disgusted with the Vikings, my team since I was 10. To see no passion or desire sucks
Nov 18, 2018 23:07:26 GMT -5
vikingsman56: I think the Vikings should make the QB position an open competition and if Sloter out performs Cousins in the preseason then he should be the starter. If Cousins wins the job then hes our QB.
Jan 1, 2019 16:55:19 GMT -5
vikingsman56: I know money talks there are no fair competitions.
Jan 29, 2019 16:56:47 GMT -5
vikingsman56: Charleton24 if you trust Spielman your an idiot.
Feb 5, 2019 14:37:08 GMT -5
jean74: Money does talk no matter what. Fair or not Vikings Man 56!
Feb 7, 2019 20:55:51 GMT -5
vikingsman56: The Minnesota Vikings will never win a Superbowl with Rick Speilman as GM and Mike Zimmer as head coach.
Feb 24, 2019 23:24:03 GMT -5
hoopleviking: speilman needs to understand.. like anyone else does with half a brain ..the O only goes s far as the line will take them ...unfortually rick and zim will contiue drafting these o lineman that are athletic..versit\
Feb 27, 2019 11:11:37 GMT -5
hoopleviking: versatile..instead of drafting mean nasty football players ..they don't get it..look at 86 bears mean nasty feared ...how Ditka sez we draft them that way
Feb 27, 2019 11:13:22 GMT -5
vikingsman56: Gucci We need OL before LB we have Wilson we can get the kid from N.C. State would be a good rotational piece with Wilson.
Mar 6, 2019 16:53:50 GMT -5
hoopleviking: hope zim doesn't draft another lb in first round.. its not the defense you need to rebuild but the f***ing o line.fix o line then you have a better offense..then ur defense will be better..d was good Anthony barr wasn't a superstar . so lets not worry abou
Mar 7, 2019 10:03:46 GMT -5
hoopleviking: LETS NOT WORRY ABOUT EVERY POSITION ON THE DEFENSE
Mar 7, 2019 10:04:56 GMT -5
hoopleviking: KIRK WILL GET THE JOB DONE ...KEENUM ONE AND DONE IN DENVER ENOUGH SAID..IF WE GET A LEFT TAKLE AND GAURD HELP KIRK WILL BE FINE RUNNING BACKS DIDNT HAVE A GOOD YEAR WHY O LINE ..O LINE IS THE PROBLEM NOT KIRK
Mar 7, 2019 10:17:51 GMT -5
hoopleviking: o line easy fix but you have to have the balls to get it done...spielgoon ...draft o tackle 1st pickleft tackle slide reiff to left guard ..2nd pick center..slide elfan to right guard and Obrien right tackle...then u are set ...just grow a pair of balls
Mar 13, 2019 10:01:56 GMT -5
vikingsman56: That would mean standing up against Zimmer he wont do that.
Mar 15, 2019 13:33:51 GMT -5
hoople32: omg Kyle suck as a TE. why are we paying him over 7 million ..look at the teams that have success ..all you need is one te that can catch the ball ...this is a joke..is it because we have nobody in the league that wants to trade for him because he is junk
May 18, 2019 11:44:41 GMT -5
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