Before the football season began in 2020, we took a look at three Minnesota Vikings players who could become stars during the season. Admittedly, I was wrong about all three of them. In fact, none of those three will even suit up for the Vikings in 2021.
Not easily discouraged, we’re going to look into Mike Zimmer’s crystal ball again to predict three more players to break out in 2021. Hopefully with a bit more luck this year.
1. Anthony Barr becomes the star Vikings fans have been waiting for
Dealing with a knee injury throughout the preseason, Anthony Barr didn’t get on the field at all during exhibition games. But the Vikings injury report shows Barr getting back to practice this week, putting him on track to play Week 1.
There’s been no indication about Barr being in the best shape of his life or any mumbo jumbo like that. However, Barr should be motivated as ever heading into a contract year looking to earn another nice payday.
Barr has a great defensive line in front of him once again as he did earlier in his career, when he played at a Pro Bowl level. Not only are the Vikings better in the trenches, the secondary should also be much improved. Since Barr does a bit of everything on the football field, having more impact players around him could free up the freakish linebacker to make more plays himself.
What does Anthony Barr need to do to earn his star status this season?
What would constitute a “star” season from Anthony Barr? We’ll say getting back to the Pro Bowl. He’s capable of being an above-average linebacker, but we haven’t seen it since at least 2018. Barr can get back to the Pro Bowl in 2021, but he needs to stay healthy first.
2. Kirk Cousins delivers in biggest moment of Vikings career
One could argue Kirk Cousins is entering his most important season yet. Luckily, the former Michigan State Spartan is set up for success behind a tough defense and a hopefully much improved offensive line.
The drawback in Minnesota for Captain Kirk has always been lackluster pass protection. Even if first-round left tackle Christian Darrisaw isn’t ready right away, three new opening day starters from last season should finally have the trenches trending in the right direction.
Still complemented by a very strong supporting cast in Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook, Cousins has a chance to make the third Pro Bowl of his career. Playing a 17-game season, with Kellen Mond (and some fans) breathing down his neck, Cousins may be heading into his best year yet.
How could Kirk Cousins become a star for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021?
Whether it’s holding off the third-round rookie sitting behind him, or hushing the near-constant media scrutiny, Cousins has plenty of motivation. Cousins has always had a hate-him or love-him reputation, at this point he probably doesn’t care.
The 2015 completion percentage leader likely just wants to play football and prove some people wrong along the way. The very same way he’s become an NFL starter and a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback. For Cousins to be a star in 2021, he needs to lead the Vikings to the playoffs.
3. Patrick Peterson experiences career revival with Minnesota Vikings
If you haven’t heard by now, the Minnesota Vikings had a major problem on defense in 2020. With a plethora of impact players added either via injury recovery, opt-out returns, or free-agency additions, 2021 should be a different story in the North Star State. One of the most accomplished newcomers is future Hall of Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Cast away in Arizona due to a perceived drop-off in coverage ability, Peterson is out to prove his doubters wrong. P2 personally told his agent to seek out an opportunity to play for Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings. The 11th-year vet is impressed with Zimmer’s resume and ability to extend the careers of experienced pros such as Terence Newman and Deion Sanders to name a couple.
An eight-time Pro Bowl corner and longtime defensive leader, Peterson is extremely motivated to show he can still be a top coverage defender in the NFL. If there’s anyone who knows what it takes to play at an elite level, it’s the three-time All-Pro defensive back.
How can Patrick Peterson become a star in purple again?
The former LSU DB does have a point about Zimmer’s past magic rejuvenating a fading career.
Peterson is one of the most skilled players of his era, so there’s no reason why he can’t age gracefully, continuing to have success late in his career. He has been to the Pro Bowl eight times, and if he can get back in 2021, he will have regained his star status.