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An $84M game manager? Vikings still trying to figure out Kirk Cousins

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EAGAN, Minn. — An otherwise nondescript Week 3 meeting with an out-of-conference opponent has become a hugely important test for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cousins might have more to prove on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders than he has in any other game of his career. Not just for the sake of bouncing back from an interception in the end zone that sealed a Week 2 loss at Green Bay, but for showing his team that he can be trusted to not commit fatal errors that become the reason the Vikings lose.

Even Cousins knows what’s bound to happen if he doesn’t make better decisions.

“Believe me, I’m not going to be playing quarterback here if I go out and play the way I did this past Sunday for much longer,” Cousins said.

The Vikings reached a crossroads far sooner than they would have hoped with Cousins. They’re one of two teams in the NFL, along with the Indianapolis Colts, that average more rushing yards per game (185) than they do passing yards (160). Part of that is the byproduct of what has worked well for Minnesota on offense, sparked by Dalvin Cook‘s early-season explosion as the top rusher in the NFL.

But this also might be a reality the Vikings have to come to terms with, if they haven’t already internally: Minnesota expected Cousins to be its franchise quarterback, but he might just be an $84 million game manager.

Minnesota claimed to have analyzed every throw Cousins made in six seasons with the Washington Redskins before he was signed to a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract in March 2018. Still, despite the noticeable flaws and areas where changing his habits might appear unrealistic, the Vikings wagered on with their decision.

The following figures sum up Cousins in big games: He has a 5-26 record against teams with winning records, a career road record of 13-24-2 and a combined prime-time record of 7-25. Since he became the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Cousins has yet to lead a game-winning drive, a span of 18 games.

Cousins has never claimed to be more than what he is, noting his own reality as “pretty much a .500 quarterback.”

For every moment that bred faith in the QB against the Packers, like the perfectly placed Willie Mays-style, over-the-shoulder catch by Stefon Diggs for a 45-yard touchdown, there were bad throws and costly errors in the 21-16 loss.

The Vikings were aware of Cousins’ struggles during the most inaccurate outing of his career since becoming a starter (14-of-32 passing) and seemed to find a way to mitigate them in Green Bay by putting the ball in the hands of Cook, who had 191 yards from scrimmage.

Seven of eight plays on the drive that brought them to the Packers’ 8-yard line with just over five minutes left in the game were rushes. Minnesota turned to Cousins at the most critical moment, effectively telling him to go win the game. And Cousins couldn’t come through, throwing an interception in the end zone, all but ensuring their first loss of the season.

Whether you agree with the playcall or not, coaches expected Cousins to make a better decision than trying to fight a tight-window throw to Diggs in double coverage. They’re entitled to believe that a quarterback with that price tag and experience would make the right call. But they got burned for the trust they placed in Cousins in that moment.

“Ultimately the result wasn’t what we wanted, so certainly when we look back, you say, ‘Man, I wish I would have run it there,'” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “But at the same time, I’m trying to be critical of every playcall, from the first to the last, and try to learn some lessons from that game and apply them moving forward. To say we’re always going to do one thing in any situation I don’t think is fair, but again, really tried to learn some lessons from each one of those plays from Sunday.”

The Vikings’ challenge: What do they do next time in the same situation because Cousins has not shown he can come through?

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Jaguars, linebacker Myles Jack donate toward utilities for elderly Jacksonville residents

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars and linebacker Myles Jack helped keep utilities on for several elderly Jacksonville residents this month.

Per the JEA’s official Twitter account, Jack and the Jaguars’ one-time donation was enough to pay electric and water bills for 31 elderly customers who were unable to pay their bills. The amount donated was not released but JEA also tweeted out a photo of a letter that Jack wrote to those he helped.

“I’m blessed to play the sport I love for a living, but I know that many individuals are less fortunate and may struggle from time to time with their monthly bills,” Jack wrote. “I want to do my part to support other members of the Jacksonville community.

“This week I made a financial contribution to help keep the lights on and the water running for you and others in our city. The Jaguars agreed to match my contribution so we could double the number of homes and families we could help. We hope it gives you temporary relief through whatever struggles you may be facing.”

Jack, the Jaguars’ second-round pick in 2016, signed a four-year, $57 million contract extension in August that includes $33 million guaranteed.



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Los Angeles Rams to put Aqib Talib on IR due to rib injury

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Los Angeles Rams cornerback Aqib Talib is headed to injured reserve because of his rib injury, he confirmed to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry on Monday.

Talib missed Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers with the injury, which he sustained in Week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Talib could return later this season. He must miss at least eight weeks, and each team can activate only two players from IR.

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Cowboys WR Amari Cooper’s availability vs. Eagles in question, source says

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FRISCO, Texas — While the quadriceps bruise Amari Cooper has dealt with the past two games is no worse than it was after three snaps in the loss to the New York Jets, the availability of the Dallas Cowboys‘ wide receiver in Sunday’s first-place showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles is in serious question, according to a source.

Cooper pulled himself from the Jets game after catching one of two passes thrown his way for 3 yards in the Cowboys’ first series. He briefly rode the stationary bike and spent the rest of the half on the sideline without receiving any treatment before officially being ruled out in the second half.

After the game, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he thought Cooper would be able to play against the Eagles.

“I don’t know why not,” Jones said. “I don’t know that anything he did out there tonight impacted his quad … He didn’t feel like he could really be productive without getting a setback there tonight.”

He initially suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ Week 5 loss to the Green Bay Packers, a game in which he set a career high with 226 yards on 11 catches. He remained in that game after getting hurt, including catching a 53-yard touchdown.

Last week, Cooper said the ankle injury that has bothered him the past few weeks was more of an issue than the quadriceps and that the heel injury that kept him out of most of training camp was no longer a problem.

Cooper had 20 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Eagles last season, with a 10-catch, 217-yard, three-touchdown effort in the Cowboys’ overtime win at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 9, 2018.

Randall Cobb did not play against the Jets because of a back issue that cropped up during practice in the middle of the week and his availability for the Philadelphia game is not yet known.

Without Cooper and Cobb, the Cowboys had Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson as their top three receivers with Ventell Bryant as a backup. Devin Smith, who had a 51-yard touchdown catch in a Week 2 win against the Washington Redskins, has been inactive the past two games.

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