NEW ORLEANS – At various points this summer, Kirk Cousins has talked about trying to make more plays with his feet in his second year with the Vikings, in an effort to add another element to the offense in 2019. Coach Mike Zimmer said at the end of the team’s minicamp he thought Cousins would get back to some of the mobility he flashed while running for 13 touchdowns in three years as a starter with the Redskins.
In his nine plays in Friday night’s 34-25 preseason victory over the Saints, Cousins provided a taste of what he hopes to do this season.
With pressure bearing down on him, the quarterback stepped up in the pocket and scrambled 10 yards to convert a third-and-9 on the Vikings’ first drive. Three plays later, he rolled to his right before finding Kyle Rudolph for 20 yards.
“When you get man coverage is when you want to do it, or at least be aware of it,” Cousins said. “That’s when you have a chance to squirt through. The blitzing linebacker got through [on the scramble], and that was really what threw off the play. I just couldn’t sit in there any more, when he created so much chaos in the pocket. I just climbed [the pocket] and felt like I could take off in man coverage. Great to be able to do that, and hopefully we can do more of that this season.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins ran for 17 first downs in his final year with the Redskins, with 11 of those coming on scrambles. Last year, he got nine of his 12 first downs on quarterback sneaks, scrambling for just two first downs. While the Vikings hope they will do a more effective job of protecting Cousins this year than they did last season, the quarterback can also help himself by rolling away from pressure or extending plays.
Cook sits out
Though running back Dalvin Cook dressed for Friday’s game, he didn’t see the field, as Zimmer opted to keep his top ball carrier on the sidelines. When asked why he didn’t play Cook, Zimmer said, “We didn’t want to put him on the turf.”
The Saints added new turf to the Superdome field before the 2018 season, and players seemed to have trouble maintaining traction in the first preseason game on Friday. But if Zimmer’s concerns about using Cook on turf extend through the preseason, it’s possible the running back won’t play at all, since all three of the Vikings’ remaining exhibition games are on turf fields.
Cook carried 17 times for 70 yards during the preseason before his rookie year, but got just four snaps (and two carries) during the 2018 preseason as he returned from a torn knee ligament. If he is to play at all in the preseason, the best bet for him to see some work might be in the Vikings’ third game against the Seahawks on Aug. 24.
Johnson enjoys debut
Seventh-round draft pick Bisi Johnson had put together some solid showings in training camp before the Vikings’ first preseason game on Friday, and the wide receiver continued to build his case for a roster spot with the way he played against the Saints.
After a 27-yard kick return to start the Vikings’ first drive of the second quarter, Johnson hauled in a 17-yard pass from Sean Mannion on a crisp route near the sideline. Three plays later, he scored his first NFL touchdown as Mannion found him for an 18-yard score beyond Patrick Robinson’s coverage.
“It was a double move, and I saw that he was way off [in coverage], so I figured I had to sell it hard,” Johnson said. “I kind of stopped in the middle of the route, and just took off, and Sean gave me a chance.”
Johnson led the Vikings’ receivers in snaps for the game, playing 33 plays. Laquon Treadwell, who was next with 32 snaps, caught one pass for 12 yards.