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Offensive Player Rankings, Week 3: Fixing the Vikings' woes

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer isn't wrong. His assessment of the team's 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday is fair. The Vikings' offense strung together a promising opening drive for the second straight week -- although this time ending in a field goal -- then crumbled. On the next eight possessions, the Vikings had three first downs, 43 total net yards, three INTs by Kirk Cousins and a safety (the team's second in as many weeks). Minnesota finished the game with 175 total yards of offense.

Over the last two weeks, in which the Vikings are 0-2, they have scored a measly 13 points in the first half. SKOL supporters are frustrated, and I get it. With the Tennessee Titans (2-0) coming to U.S. Bank Stadium this weekend, the question needs answering: Can the Vikings' offense be fixed?

The simple answer is yes. I have never been one to really critique my former coach Gary Kubiak, but there are some real issues with the game plan right now. This offense up front is made up of good zone-run blockers who move their feet and pave the way for Dalvin Cook, but we're seeing this group regularly get beat on obvious passing situations (we'll get to that in a minute). The Vikings began Sunday's contest with three pass plays: a completion to Adam Thielen for no gain, another to Thielen for 18 yards and an incompletion to Irv Smith. Cook registered five carries in the 13-play opening drive, which resulted in a field goal. From there, crickets for Cook.

Cook finished with 14 carries for 63 yards and a TD late in the game. He had just two receptions on two targets in the pass game. In Week 1, the newly paid back had 14 touches (12 carries, two catches on two targets). Cook's lack of touches is a real issue right now. He averaged 21.6 touches per game in 2019, when the Vikings' offense ranked eighth in scoring. This year's average of 14.5 touches per game isn't going to cut it. Cook is the team's best playmaker and must get the ball at least 25 times per game. The Vikings have done quite well being a run-centric offense in the past, and this isn't the year to get away from that with a shallow wide receiver corps and young, banged-up defense.

Right now, the unit is running through Thielen, who has 16 targets in two games (nine more than any other Vikings player), and it's not working. When watching Minnesota, it's obvious that Thielen is the only pass catcher Cousins trusts right now. He's the only one getting separation and Cousins is forcing the ball to him as a result. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Smith have underwhelmed, while Justin Jefferson is playing like a rookie. The former LSU standout has the ability, but is unsure in his routes two games into his NFL career. If he can stop thinking his way through the process, Jefferson could accelerate his game to be three-fourths of what Stefon Diggs was last season, and that's what Minnesota desperately needs. Cousins hasn't been sharp with poor reads and late throws, and the constant pressure (remember, two safeties this season) isn't helping. The thing is, there hasn't been just one weakness on the offensive line (which has given up five sacks in two games), but more so a carousel of mistakes by multiple guys.

The best way to get everyone in this offense comfortable is by being boring and running the ball through Cook. Then Cousins can pop a play-action pass. But until Minnesota establishes its top-10 run game of yesteryear before turning to the air attack, you can expect nothing to change.

Top 15 Offensive Players

Former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr takes a look at all offensive players and ranks his top 15. For the first quarter of the season, the rankings are based on a combination of:

1) Player accomplishments from the 2019 season.
2) Weekly performances, factoring in strength of opponent.

Rankings will be solely judged on this season's efforts following Week 4. Arrows reflect changes from Week 2. Heading into Week 3, here is Carr's list:

Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · QB

It seems that Wilson wanted to prove Bill Belichick right. Ahead of Sunday's prime-time clash, the Patriots coach said of Wilson "I don't see anybody better than this player." That sentiment certainly rang true in the QB's incredible, five-touchdown performance against Belichick's defense on Sunday night. Not to mention, his five TD strikes went to five different players (Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Freddie Swain and Chris Carson). Jump on Russ' MVP train now. 

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · QB

Jackson had another clean outing (18-of-24 for 204 yards, one TD pass, 113.9 passer rating; 16 carries, 54 yards) in Baltimore's 33-16 win over Houston to improve his career record as a starter to 21-3. The reigning MVP has looked confident and well-rounded as a passer so far this season, completing 77.6 percent of his pass attempts and posting a 4:0 TD-to-INT ratio. Baltimore's deep backfield and improved defense have taken pressure off the star QB, but we'll see just how much Jackson has improved next Monday, when the Ravens host Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB

I'm still trying to figure out why on earth the Los Angeles Chargers didn't go for fourth-and-1 in overtime and willingly gave Mahomes the chance to win it. Honestly, who thought the reigning Super Bowl MVP wouldn't get it done? Exactly. Mahomes has proven to be one of the most clutch quarterbacks when playing from behind, as the Chiefs are 6-0 since 2019 in games in which he has started and they have trailed by at least 10 points. You gotta avoid giving him the ball at all costs. 

Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · QB

After a slow start against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers and the Packers ripped off 42 points, 39 of which came after the first quarter, to earn a 42-21 victory in their home opener. This is the third time in the Super Bowl era that the Packers have scored at least 40 points in back-to-back games. In each of the previous two seasons (2011 and 2014), Rodgers went on to win the NFL MVP Award. 

Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys · RB

The Cowboys overcame a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to earn their first win of the season and some much-needed confidence. Zeke, who had one of the Cowboys' four first-quarter fumbles, finished with 89 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run for Dallas' first points of the game. It wasn't one of Zeke's best outings, but he and the 'Boys escaped with a victory.

Davante Adams
Green Bay Packers · WR

Adams took a back seat to the Aaron Jones show on Sunday with three receptions for 36 yards on three targets. I'm not concerned with his low number of targets, but I am perturbed by the hamstring injury that forced him to leave the game in the second half. If he misses time, the Packers will be even thinner at wideout. 

DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals · WR

For the second straight game, Hopkins led the Cardinals in targets (nine) and reception yards (68) -- and he set the NFL record for most receptions (22) in a wideout's first two games with a new team. Hopkins' presence has elevated every part of the Cardinals' offense by opening up the run game for Kenyan Drake and Kyler Murray and creating opportunities for other receivers. Defenses must know where he is at all times. (Unfortunately for the Football Team, that wasn't the case here.)

Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · QB

The 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year has started his 2020 campaign with a bang. He looks much more comfortable in his second season in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, running all over defenses and leaning on his talented receiving corps, which includes newcomer DeAndre Hopkins. Murray, who ranks ninth in the league in rushing yards (158), stayed poised against Washington's vaunted pass rush and has the Cardinals sitting 2-0 with a winnable stretch on the horizon (vs. Lions, at Panthers, at Jets).

Cam Newton
New England Patriots · QB

Josh McDaniels has done a great job of acclimating his offense to Newton's strengths. The veteran passer looked more comfortable in his second week of action, throwing for nearly 400 yards and a TD (against one INT) and rushing for 47 yards and two scores in the narrow loss to Seattle. I'll tell you one thing: If Cam gets in the end zone on the game's final play, Monday morning headlines would've had him squarely in the MVP conversation. 

Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · QB

Allen continued his great start to the 2020 season with an impressive effort in Miami, completing 24 of 35 pass attempts for 417 yards, four TDs and a passer rating of 147.0. Allen's 70.4 completion percentage over two games is well above his 56.3 percentage over his first two NFL campaigns -- a great sign for Buffalo. The Bills will go as far as Allen takes them.

Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · RB

Jones enjoyed a career day at an empty Lambeau Field, and I'm sure his several Lambeau Leaps didn't quite feel the same without rowdy Cheeseheads pulling at him. The dynamic running back dominated the Lions' defense all day with career-highs of 168 rush yards and 236 scrimmage yards. Not to mention, three touchdowns. He had a lot of highlight-reel plays, but nothing bested his 75-yard touchdown run on the first snap from scrimmage in the second half. 

Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · RB

The Raiders upset the Saints on Monday night by moving the ball consistently down the field on New Orleans' defense and controlling the clock with the Jacobs-led rushing attack. His 88 rushing yards against the Saints puts him at 1,331 through 15 career games, most in Raiders history through a player's first 15 games. Jacobs' future is bright.

Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs · TE

Patrick Mahomes got a lot of people involved in the offense on Sunday, but Kelce continues to be the passer's favorite target. The tight end finished the contest with nine catches for 90 yards -- including a 10-yard, second-quarter TD reception -- on a game-high 14 targets. Looking ahead, it'll be fun to watch Kelce match up against an improved Ravens defense in Week 3.

Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · RB

Other than the fumble, which was recovered by the Saints, Kamara had a near-perfect performance Monday night against the Raiders. He rushed 13 times for 79 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, while catching all nine of his targets for 95 yards. Without Michael Thomas on the field, Drew Brees and the Saints' offense struggled as a whole, but Kamara looked as good as ever.

Darren Waller
Las Vegas Raiders · TE

With an incredible effort Monday night against the Saints (12 catches, 103 yards, one TD), Waller has now posted 100-plus receiving yards in four of his last seven games. Since arriving on the Raiders, he's established himself as the fastest tight end in the league and someone who creates mismatches against just about everyone.

DROPPED OUT: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (previously No. 4); Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (No. 8); Michael Thomas, WR, Saints (No. 10); George Kittle, TE, 49ers (No. 11); Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants (No. 13); Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals (No. 15).

Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8

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