Author Archives: Chris Spooner

Kirk Cousins walks off field after Vikings fall to 0-3

Finding Hope in the Vikings 0-3 Start

The Minnesota Vikings have squandered a golden opportunity and started the season 0-3. Trade rumors are swirling around quarterback Kirk Cousins. The offensive line is a veritable turnstile. Teams who start the season 0-3 have a miniscule chance of making the playoffs, and an even worse chance at having success in them. It seems like all hope is lost for the 2023 squad, right?

In the immortal words of Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins, “I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend”. Call it naivety. Call it blind-ass-fan syndrome. Whatever you want to call it, I believe that there’s still hope for the Vikings this season, and that the 0-3 start isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at each of these points and try to find the silver lining.

Kirk Cousins walks off field after Vikings fall to 0-3
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Abbie Parr

Trading Kirk Cousins doesn’t make sense

It makes sense that the rumor mill is abuzz with speculation about Kirk Cousins, particularly when it comes to the New York Jets. The Vikings have started off 0-3, have a lot of good, young pieces on the roster, and have an aging quarterback who doesn’t necessarily fit the vision for the future. On the other side, you have a talented team who felt they were a quarterback away, swung for the fences to get him, and had him go down with a season-ending injury. The marriage makes perfect sense, right?

As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast, my friends”. Despite the Vikings’ 0-3 start, Kirk Cousins is playing at a high level this season. And despite what history may say, this season is still salvageable. We’ll have more on that point in a minute. For right now, let’s just look at the Cousins-to-Jets trade rumors at a surface level. The need is there for the Jets, for sure, but why would the Vikings bail on Cousins at this juncture? What would they get out of the deal?

If we’re looking at the Aaron Rodgers trade as a baseline, the Packers swapped first-round picks with the Jets, and New York picked up two second-round picks (and a sixth, but that’s largely irrelevant) in the trade. One of those seconds could have become a first, were it not for the injury, but the injury happened so that’s what the compensation will be. It’s unlikely that Cousins would fetch as high a price as the four-time MVP and former Super Bowl champion, so where is the incentive to make a deal?

As it stands today, the Vikings are sitting in the third spot in the 2024 NFL draft. This year’s class looks to be a relatively strong one at the position, with the likes of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Michael Penix headlining the class. With Minnesota already in prime position to grab one of the top guys and prepare for the future, why would they tank the present for minimal return? They wouldn’t – and they shouldn’t.

The offensive line isn’t as bad as you think

One of the biggest – if not THE biggest – pain points during the 0-3 start for the Vikings has been the performance of the offensive line. Particularly the interior offensive line. It seems like every other dropback, Cousins is running for his life out there or taking a big hit/sack. It’s not just in the pass game, either.

So far through three weeks, the Vikings haven’t been able to get much going on the ground, either. Alexander Mattison was supposed to revitalize the Vikings run game in the wake of Dalvin Cook’s departure, and that simply hasn’t happened. But how much of that poor performance is actually placed at the offensive linemen’s feet?

The fact that the Vikings went out and signed former Broncos offensive lineman Dalton Risner would suggest that a healthy portion of the issue is the offensive line, right? The eye test may even confirm that notion, but does that really hold up to scrutiny Advanced metrics and position grading seem to suggest our eyes are lying to us, at least to a degree.

Despite what it may feel like, the Vikings offensive line is actually – at least analytically – performing quite well so far this season. The Vikings offensive line ranks fourth in the league in pass protection when looking at a weighted average of PFF grades, ESPN’s pass block win rate metric, and the SIS data. When looking at the run blocking ratings, again the Vikings rank within the top 5, coming in right at the number 5 spot. That tells a drastically different story than popular narrative.

This isn’t your father’s 0-3 team

With most 0-3 teams, you could see it coming. A lot of them are in that football purgatory of trying to transition to the next era of their team. They aren’t competitive, and the season feels lost from the very outset. There are a number of teams like that in the 2023 NFL season: The Bears and Broncos chief among them. This year’s Vikings team doesn’t have that feeling.

This is a team that could easily be 2-1, if not 3-0, had a couple of things broken their way. I would go out on a limb and say they would easily be talked about as one of the better teams in the league right now if they had three turnovers on the year instead of nine. That’s been the biggest factor in this team’s downfall, and it’s completely fixable. Turnovers are largely unreliable in the NFL, and at some point the Vikings turnover luck has to turn over. It’s simply unsustainable – and unreasonable – for them to keep this rate up.

If and when the turnovers settle down, the Vikings should be in good position to make a rebound. The offense, despite the giveaways, is playing really well. Justin Jefferson is on pace to smash all the single-season receiving records. Jordan Addison is showing all the promise and then some in his rookie campaign. KJ Osborn has flashed as a really good third option.

What’s killing this team right now is a combination of the turnovers and conservative gameplay. It’s really hard to win games in the NFL. It’s nearly impossible to win them when you’re turning the ball over three times a game. Combine that with a success rate (plays with positive EPA) well below 50%, and you have the Vikings current predicament. 

What’s the solution? That’s above my pay grade. But it would seem like Cousins and the Vikings offense needs to put a little more faith in the guys up front, and maybe take the high-school approach of carrying the ball around town with them to get used to hanging on to it. Push the ball downfield more and stop giving it away, and we’re talking about this team very differently. There is hope, I promise.

Minnesota Vikings Sign WR N’Keal Harry

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms with former Arizona State standout wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Harry had a stellar career for the Sun Devils, topping 1000 yards twice in his three years and amassing 22 touchdowns. Those stats, along with his ability to be a big-play possession receiver garnered Harry much praise from the scouting community. Enough for the New England Patriots to make him a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately for Harry, he was never able to replicate the college production at the NFL level. Injuries and poor performance marred his Patriots career, to the tune of only 18 starts over three seasons. After the 2021 season, the Patriots parted ways with Harry, who ended up in Chicago.

The story in Chicago was much the same as New England for Harry. Harry struggled to see the field for a team who had a dearth of talent at the position, speaking volumes for his development so far in the league. In just one season with the Bears, Harry didn’t get a single start, and was only good for seven receptions and one touchdown. Now, Harry hopes to turn his fortunes around with another NFC North team, the Vikings.

Whether Harry has what it takes to make the Vikings final 53-man roster is a valid question. To this point in his career, Harry has bounced around the league and has not consistently shown the talent he flashed in his college days. However, there’s reason to believe that talent is still there. With Adam Thielen now in Carolina, the Vikings could benefit from having a big, speedy possession receiver in the mix.

If N’Keal Harry can be the receiver he was for Arizona State, he can open up the offense for Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and a potent Vikings offense. Only time will tell if Harrry is able to tap into that potential, but at this point in the season the risk is worth the reward.

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Thomas in the team's last postseason win

Is it the Miami Dolphins Turn for Postseason Success?

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Thomas in the team's last postseason win
Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Sports in South Florida are experiencing their day in the sun right now. Back in March, both the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic men’s basketball teams made improbable Final Four runs. The Miami Heat just made the NBA Finals as an 8-seed. The Florida Panthers just made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, also as an 8-seed. One of the biggest soccer players in the world, Lionel Messi, signed with Inter Miami. With all the recent success, it’s only fair for Miami Dolphins fans to ask when it’s their turn for postseason success.

The Miami Dolphins have a rich and storied history of postseason success. Don Shula is in the top 5 all-time for playoff wins. The Dolphins dominated the playoff landscape in the early 70s, making three Super Bowls and winning two. The 80s were less successful, but the decade still saw the team making two more Super Bowls. All-time great Dan Marino shattered records on his way to Super Bowl 19, giving fans everywhere renewed hope for the future.

However, that was the last Super Bowl this once-proud franchise would make.

A Rise Out of (Relative) Obscurity?

It’s been a long and painful stretch of obscurity for Dolphins fans over the past 40-something years. For much of the recent past, the team hasn’t been close to a playoff contender, let alone a Super Bowl contender. But fortunes may be changing in South Beach. There are reasons for optimism surrounding the Dolphins. After all the moves they’ve made the last two years, it has fans asking themselves, “If not now, when?”

It’s a fair question to ask. In my 30-plus years of watching this team, I’m hard-pressed to remember a team that was as talented – on paper, at least – as the team that heads into the 2023 NFL season. When you look at the roster, particularly on offense, you have to think that if there’s ever a team that will turn the Miami Dolphins into a postseason contender again, it’s this one.

Is This the Team to End the Miami Dolphins Postseason Win Drought?

This Miami Dolphins offense currently has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the entire league in Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. Last season, both Waddle and Hill surpassed 75 receptions, each had over 1,000 yards and 7 or more touchdowns, and Hill was named to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. All this in a season where their starting quarterback missed four starts and was knocked out of several others. These stats also came in a season where the Dolphins’ offense, yet again, had no real running game to speak of.

And therein lies the problem(s) with getting too excited about the postseason potential of the 2023 Miami Dolphins. There are still a whole lot of “what ifs” that surround this offense. Some of those questions, however, could be mitigated by a defense that should be much improved over its 2022 counterpart.

There weren’t many moves in the offseason to bolster the Miami Dolphins’ defense, but the ones that were made, they made them count. Namely, the Dolphins making a deal with the Los Angeles Rams to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Pairing Ramsey with standout cornerback Xavien Howard, soon-to-be star safety Jevon Holland, and 2022 surprise rookie stud Kader Kohou gives the Dolphins a defensive backfield that will give any offensive coordinator nightmares.

Pair that defensive backfield with the pass-rushing tandem of Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb, and you have the makings of one of the best defenses in the league. Miami’s linebacker group is still somewhat suspect, but the idea is that there’s enough talent around them to mask any deficiencies that show up. And if anyone is going to be able to put all that talent in a position to succeed, it’s new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Is 2023 the Year for the Miami Dolphins Postseason Hopes?

In the past two seasons, the Miami Dolphins have made great strides in once again becoming a postseason stalwart. But it all hinges on the arm – and, more importantly, the health – of their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua has not been able to have a completely healthy season since he came into the league. Even before then, actually, as his final season at Alabama was cut short by a severe hip/leg injury.

The 2023 Miami Dolphins will only go as far as Tua Tagovailoa can take them. If he can stay out on the field and duplicate – and expand upon – his successes from 2022, the sky’s the limit for this team. However, should Tua falter yet again and the Dolphins are once again relying on backup quarterbacks for multiple games, 2023 may be yet another lost season. Yet another year where the Miami Dolphins are on the sidelines during the postseason asking themselves, “Why can’t that be us?”

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Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is the focus of persistent trade rumors

Top 3 Trade Destinations for Dalvin Cook

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is the focus of persistent trade rumors
Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

One of the most persistent storylines of the NFL offseason has circled around the Minnesota Vikings and the future of their star running back, Dalvin Cook. The trade winds have swirled for months, and the rumors just don’t seem to go away. Cook has been linked to a number of teams during this saga. Yet, for now, he remains in Minnesota. 

It feels like it’s only a matter of time before the Vikings ship Cook off somewhere, but where? Here are the top three trade destinations as I see them for Cook, with a wildcard thrown in just for fun – and maybe some chaos!

Dalvin Cook Trade Destinations: Top 3

Arizona Cardinals

For my money, the Arizona Cardinals make the most sense to pull off a trade with the Vikings for Dalvin Cook. They are a team that has been making moves for a couple of years, trying to make that next leap into consistent playoff relevance.

The Cards have their quarterback of the future, Kyler Murray. They have a star wide receiver in Deandre Hopkins – who has his own trade rumors swirling. A consistent threat at the running back position could be the piece they need to put it all together.

One of the big things holding the Cardinals back is health. Kyler Murray is set to miss the beginning portions of the season. Current starting running back James Conner has had an extensive injury history in the NFL. Cook has had his own injury history, but he’s mostly been able to battle through and be a consistent presence in the Vikings backfield. If he can provide that for the Cardinals, they may have what it takes to compete with the 49ers for the division.

Dallas Cowboys

I’ll be the first one to admit that, on the surface, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys to pursue a trade for Dalvin Cook. They seem poised to move on from their cornerstone running back Ezekiel Elliott after a significant dip in his production.

Bringing in another aging, slowing running back would be questionable decision-making, to say the least. Add in the fact that they just signed running back Tony Pollard to a franchise tag deal, and it makes even less sense.

On the other hand, we all know who runs the Cowboys: Jerry Jones. Jones has always been one to make flashy, high-profile moves – whether it makes sense for the team or not. At this point in the NFL offseason, he couldn’t pull off a flashier move than making a trade with the Vikings for Cook.

Do I think it will happen? No. But will I be surprised if Jones up and decides he absolutely has to have Cook, damn the cost? Also no.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are the team most heavily connected to the Vikings in a trade for Dalvin Cook. The rumors have been floating about for months, and just when you think they’ve died out, they come back with a vengeance. On the surface, trading Cook to the Dolphins makes some sense.

Miami has been making a hard push in a competitive AFC. They traded for former Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb last season. Earlier this offseason, they traded with the Los Angeles Rams to bring in Jalen Ramsey. What’s one more trade, right?

The problem with this scenario is two-fold. The first and most obvious thing is that trading for a running back doesn’t make much sense for a team that has already expended so many resources making a push. The second issue is that Cook doesn’t really fit the mold of what this new Dolphins team is after. With the guys they’ve brought in and drafted over the past few seasons, they clearly have one thing in mind: Speed.

That being said, bringing in a running back like Cook could provide the Dolphins with some much-needed versatility in the backfield. Right now, they don’t have a back who fits that traditional “thumper” mold like Cook could. If brought in, Cook could provide the perfect complement to guys like Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and third-round pick De’Von Achane.

Dalvin Cook Trade Destinations: Wild Card

San Francisco 49ers

Out of all the options we’ve explored for a Vikings trade of Dalvin Cook, this one probably makes the least sense – but is also the most fun. That’s why this is my wildcard option. The 49ers are almost assuredly not going to trade for Cook. They have a potent offense already with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle – the best tight end in football.

They also just played this game last season, making a trade with the Carolina Panthers for Christian McCaffrey. Not only does it not make sense for the 49ers to turn around and expend more assets at the position, but McCaffrey is also a much better fit for what the 49ers want to do on offense. It would be a pipe dream to think San Francisco would be interested in trading for Cook, much less be willing to pull it off.

And yet, one can’t help but dream. Cook would add a new dimension to the 49ers’ offense they don’t currently have. The offense in San Francisco is already so innovative and fun. Can you imagine what Kyle Shanahan could come up with if he had the ever-present threat of simply running the ball down a team’s throat? Cook could open that offense up even further with his presence alone, and that’s fun enough to include here.

Tyjae Spears scouting report

2023 NFL Draft: Tyjae Spears Scouting Report

The path to the 2023 NFL draft has been challenging for former Tulane running back Tyjae Spears. Matt Forte left an indelible mark on the Tulane Green Wave program, and Spears looks to be the next great back in that lineage. But this wasn’t always the case for the talented prospect. With the NFL draft quickly approaching, it’s time for my first scouting report of the season — on Tyjae Spears.

Tyjae Spears scouting report
Photo Credit: Tulane Athletics

Tyjae Spears Background

Spears arrived at Tulane in 2019 and was promptly behind several backs on the depth chart as a freshman. He was seldom used that first year, seeing action in only four games, with just under 200 yards rushing. His sophomore season was going to be better. Spears was named the starter and got off to a fast start rushing for 274 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games. Then disaster struck.

Spears suffered a torn ACL in the third week of the season and was forced to miss the remainder of the season, cashing in on his redshirt. An ACL injury isn’t good, no matter your position, but it can spell disaster for a running back. But, to Spears’ credit, he battled back and was the Green Wave’s starting running back again in 2021, playing in 12 games and rushing for over 800 yards and nine touchdowns.

It was Spears’ senior season when the breakout finally came. The Tulane football program experienced unprecedented success in the 2022 season, spearheaded by a great season from their skilled back. Spears burst onto the college football scene in a big way, rushing for over 1500 yards, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry, and scoring a whopping 19 touchdowns, adding 22 receptions for 250+ yards and two more touchdowns.

Stats are great, but football isn’t played on paper. Box-score scouting is how you get yourself into trouble. What traits does Spears have that allowed him to put up such gaudy stats this season? Let’s dive into the Tyjae Spears scouting report!

Tyjae Spears Scouting Report


  • Extremely explosive
  • Better agility than scores indicate
  • Surprisingly good receiver
  • Nice vision and contact balance
  • Scheme versatile


  • Small frame
  • Less-than-ideal contribution in passing game
  • Injury history

Tyjae Spears NFL Draft Outlook

In other years, we might be talking about Tyjae Spears as the top running back in the class. That’s how good his scouting report indicates he can be. Unfortunately for Spears, he’s up against one of the strongest running back classes in recent memory, with the likes of Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Zach Charbonnet.

Spears is an explosive back whose skill set indicates that he can be scheme versatile. His small stature may preclude him from being used in power schemes, but his vision, shiftiness, and explosion should lend well to either zone or gap-running schemes.

Though he didn’t see a lot of action in the passing game, he did show a surprising amount of ability in that department. Spears is sure-handed – likely due at least in part to massive 10” hands – and is a force to be reckoned with in the open field. He likely won’t contribute much to a team in blocking, but he should provide a quarterback with a nice safety valve out of the backfield and can be lined up outside, too.

The biggest knock on Spears outside of size will be his injury history. Though he’s only had one significant injury in his college career, it’s about as big a one for a running back as possible. ACL injuries tend to hamper the shelf-life of an already depressed longevity position. The medical checks will be significant for Spears. Spears was able to play and exceed expectations on that knee during the 2022 season, so I don’t expect any major surprises come med check time. However, it is something most teams will note.

Overall, Spears is a great prospect who, thanks to a tough class, will likely be pushed down the board and drafted lower than his talent may warrant. He’s still a top-100 player in the 2023 NFL draft and should hear his name called no later than the middle of the third round. However, we’d likely be talking about Spears as an early second-type player in other years. Some team will surely get an outstanding running back prospect.