Let’s be clear. Josh Dobbs is not an upgrade over Kirk Cousins —nor would a rookie quarterback be if the Minnesota Vikings took one in the draft next April.
However, the Vikings are getting a glimmer of what the offense might look like without Cousins (whose contract expires in February) after the veteran quarterback’s Week 8 Achilles injury.
The Vikings had to reimagine what the rest of their season would look like with the possibility of no Cousins arriving in front of them. They still sought the same intangibles that Cousins possesses — leadership, processing and accuracy — but Dobbs’ dual-threat ability was a selling point in Minnesota making a trade for the former Arizona Cardinals quarterback at the league deadline.
That athleticism was on display in Sunday’s improbably win over the Atlanta Falcons, and the Vikings should take this opportunity to see what this roster can do without Cousins before they make a final decision on his future when free agency opens in March.
“He can change the game athletically. I gave him plenty of bad plays today and he made it right. That’s something that we knew, quite honestly; bringing him here was one of the traits, in addition to his leadership quality, his smarts, his toughness,” Kevin O’Connell said in a postgame news conference.
The Josh Dobbs Game is Only the Surface of Vikings’ Potential With Dual-Threat QB
Dobbs arrived in Minnesota by trade just five days before he was thrust into action after Jaren Hall landed in concussion protocol in the first quarter of Sunday’s 31-28 win over the Falcons. Dobbs hadn’t thrown a single pass in practice. He hadn’t taken a single snap from center Garrett Bradbury.
O’Connell had to force-feed play calls, translating the meaning and design to Dobbs in realtime through the speakers in his helmet, before every play.
But in the space between the cram sesh and the league-mandated cutoff t 15 seconds on the play clock, O’Connell had one reminder for Dobbs:
“Don’t forget about your legs.”
Dobbs did so masterfully on Sunday, using his legs, as O’Connell described, to “resolve conflict.” He converted on fourth-and-7 on his eventual game-winning drive, stepping up to avoid the rush, slipping a defender before making three more miss for a 22-yard pickup.
It was a play where protection broke down; where everything wasn’t perfect. And Dobbs made the play on his own. Dobbs finished the game throwing for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns and a 101.8 passer rating while adding 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
JOSH DOBBS SCRAMBLES ON FOURTH DOWN pic.twitter.com/BAc0H49kar
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) November 5, 2023
The Vikings have just breached the surface of the possibilities of O’Connell’s offense with a dual-threat quarterback.
And while Minnesota is still considering extending Cousins, who was playing some of the best football of his career before his injury, the next eight games will also give the Vikings insight into how well the offense can perform with a quarterback whose skill set is more fitting of what their hopes for their next quarterback.
Vikings Interested in Re-Signing Kirk Cousins, But it Must Work With Extensions Ahead
In a news conference after the Vikings traded for Dobbs, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made the Vikings’ intentions with Cousins clear that his desire to keep Cousins has to align with what’s best for the organization.
And what’s most important next offseason for the Vikings is extending Justin Jefferson long-term.
Cousins and Jefferson on lucrative deals at the same time takes away significant cap space to rebuild the roster. Danielle Hunter is also a candidate for an extension as well, currently leading the league in sacks and tackles for loss this season.
The roster is still in need of significant improvements to bring Minnesota to contender status, making re-signing Cousins a catch-22.
Cousins may not garner as much attention in free agency, coming off a hamstring injury at the age of 35, and take a team-friendly deal. But if his price remains north of $30 million a year, the Vikings may find themselves building a better roster with a more affordable option at quarterback with the last half of this season as a trial run of that future.