Vikings camp Day 2: Cousins, O'Connell building bond; Andrew Booth Jr. shines

When Kirk Cousins first came to Minnesota four seasons ago, he had visions of leading the Vikings to a Super Bowl.

In 63 starts with the Vikings, he’s 33-29-1, and has one playoff victory. It became clear over his time with Mike Zimmer that their relationship wouldn’t work. Zimmer was a hard-nosed, defensive-minded head coach who wanted to run the ball. Cousins put up big stats, but hasn’t succeeded in primetime and the Vikings have missed the postseason altogether in three of his four seasons.

It’s clear Cousins and the rest of his teammates have embraced Kevin O’Connell and the new coaching staff. After all, O’Connell is fresh off leading Matthew Stafford and the L.A. Rams to a Super Bowl victory. The primary objective for Cousins in the offseason, and throughout training camp, has been to build a relationship with O’Connell. The two go back to his final season in Washington, and the quarterback is an extension of the head coach on the field.

"I think it’s important, you want everybody to be on the same page as much as possible. Certainly the head coach and quarterback falls under that umbrella. But I’d hate to have anybody not on the same page with the head coach or with one another in this building, it makes it harder to win," Cousins said.

The relationship grows daily, and O’Connell isn’t afraid to challenge the veteran in his 11th season. Cousins pointed to a session during OTAs when he went through progressions on a play. After, O’Connell told Cousins to make a certain throw based on the defensive look, not to check down to the next progression.

Their communication is ongoing, and the line of dialogue is open.

"It’s important to understand what he wants and not just play to ‘Well I’ve done this before so I’ll just do this again.’ It’s more of a how do you want it to look and then let me execute that way? But that takes time to learn," Cousins said. "The bottom line is you need to do it the way the coach wants it done, and I find that when you’re coachable and you learn it the way they want it, that’s when you have the most success."

It became news when Cousins said last year he would meet with Zimmer once per week to watch film together. O’Connell said Wednesday he plans to meet with his quarterback at least once a week during the season, and probably more.

That’s especially important with the first-time head coach calling the offensive plays for the first time in his career.

"I think that’s one of the best things you can do, especially as a play-caller. I think the quarterback has to be an extension of you as a head coach," O’Connell said. "Having played the position, I didn’t like when the coach called a play I didn’t like. I think that’s really important. I might like something, but in the end if the quarterback is the guy that’s going to be pulling the trigger and doesn’t love something, we’ve got plenty of plays. It’s a huge part of my relationship with him."

It’s a fresh start for Cousins, who is also on another new offensive coordinator in Wes Phillips. The lines of communication are open, and that might be most important, but it’s still on Cousins to lead the offense. 

"In the end I’m still going to coach him really hard, and the expectation is to make the play that our team needs," O’Connell said.


Andrew Booth Jr. didn’t do a lot during the Vikings’ offseason program, nursing an injury. But he’s wasted no time making an impact in the first two days of training camp at TCO Performance Center.

Booth made a sliding interception on Cousins on a pass intended for Justin Jefferson in Wednesday’s opening practice. Thursday, he challenged Ihmir Smith-Marsette on multiple plays and had some words for him after a few stops.

The Vikings have needs at cornerback, with Patrick Peterson the only established veteran starter. Cam Dantzler is entering his third season, but started just seven games last year, and the Vikings added Chandon Sullivan in free agency. Booth’s emergence could be key for a new defense.

"What I saw yesterday was a guy that used all of those jog-through reps. It was great to see some of those come to fruition. It was a great start for him," O’Connell said. "I just challenged him, can you stack that? Can you maintain? That’s really the secret for a rookie."

The Vikings will practice at U.S. Bank Stadium Friday afternoon before the first training camp practice open to fans on Saturday in Eagan.