In boxing, the axiom says that styles make fights. If the same holds true for the NFL, the Sunday matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants could be one of the best watches in Week 5.
It will be a clash of Minnesota’s top-10 defense against New York rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who has won his first two starts after replacing veteran Eli Manning. Jones led the Giants to 32-31 and 24-3 victories over the Buccaneers and Redskins, respectively, to push New York to 2-2.
In Tampa Bay, Jones found a soft landing spot for his first NFL game. Against Washington, he had a foe that he could make a couple of mistakes against and still win easily, given the kind of mess that the Redskins have become.
In the Vikings (2-2), Jones faces his stiffest test by far. Minnesota has a solid front seven and a good secondary, and coach Mike Zimmer has never been afraid to throw different looks at young quarterbacks to confuse them.
“They have two edge rushers, they have interior guys that can get push,” said New York coach Pat Shurmur. “They have linebackers that are Pro Bowlers. They have corners and they have safeties that have all been to Pro Bowls.
“They’re well-coordinated and they put pressure on the passer and they do a good job of stopping the run. That’s what you want from a defense.”
After hitting 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards against the defenseless Buccaneers in his first start and running for the game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes, Jones shrugged off two picks against Washington. He completed 23 of 31 attempts for 225 yards and an early score.
Zimmer likes what he’s seen of Jones on video.
“Daniel Jones is obviously a very, very talented kid,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s a really good player, and I think he’s going to be a great player. He’s got an outstanding arm, he’s got good feet in the pocket and he moves well. He scrambles.”
While Jones has drawn raves so far, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has elicited groans. Despite having two of the best receivers in the league, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Minnesota is somehow ranked 31st in the league in passing.
The blame is being placed on Cousins, who has completed 64.6 percent of his passes but for only 183.8 yards per game. A 16-6 road loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday only increased the howls. Cousins completed 27 of 36 passes, but for only 233 yards, and absorbed six sacks for 51 yards.
Cousins felt the need to apologize to Thielen during a radio appearance Tuesday, saying there were opportunities for him that the quarterback didn’t convert. On paper, Cousins may have a chance to make it up to Thielen. New York has the league’s 25th-rated pass defense, even after it picked off four passes against Washington.
“I don’t know about all that stat stuff,” Shurmur said, “I just know they are very dangerous.”
He would know that better than most. Shurmur was Zimmer’s offensive coordinator from the middle of the 2016 season through 2017, helping Minnesota reach the NFC title game before taking the Giants’ job for 2018.
—Field Level Media