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Cousins seeks more ‘explosive plays’ in second Vikings season

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball behind the blocks of Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Mike Remmers (74) and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Nov. 18.

EAGAN, Minn. -- Quarterback Kirk Cousins tweeted out a picture this week of his new, thick Vikings playbook. So, how does he plan to learn it all?

“The same way you would eat an elephant, one bite at a time,’’ Cousins said Tuesday, April 16, on the second day of offseason drills at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

At least there is some familiarity for Cousins. In January, the Vikings hired Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach/offensive adviser because his offense is similar to the one Cousins once ran in Washington.

“He’s a great coach,’’ Cousins said of Kubiak, who coached Denver to a win in Super Bowl L in February 2016. “His track record says it all. Kevin (Stefanski, the offensive coordinator) will work really well with him and I think it will help all of us to be on the same page.”

The Vikings ranked 20th in total offense last season and Cousins has a good idea why.

“I look at it as a lack of explosive plays,’’ he said. “Explosive plays are critical … to winning football games. … When you have explosive plays, you stay out of third down and you give yourself a chance to score on first- and second down.’’

Let's not panic... yet

Harrison Smith is trying his best not to overreact to a rule change allow officials to review video on pass interference calls. Last year, the big topic was changes to what constitutes roughing the passer.

“There seems to be one (rule change) that looks like it’s going to be really big every season,” Smith said. “Then toward the end of the season it was kind of like not a thing anymore. I think that’s probably what’s going to happen with a lot of these things.”

Smith doesn’t love the rule change, which will likely put defensive players at a further disadvantage.

“They said they’ll review (offensive pass interference), as well. Probably not,” Smith said with a smile. “It’s going to be what it’s going to be. It will probably calm down after the first couple weeks. The preseason will probably be a nightmare, as always, and then it will calm down.”

Rudolph ready

Tight end Kyle Rudolph showed up for Monday’s first day of offseason drills wearing a sweatshirt that read, “Lots of game left.’’

Rudolph, 29 and entering his ninth NFL season, said some don’t believe that to be the case.

“I’m still young,’’ said Rudolph, who will make $7.625 million in the final year on his contract. “I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been in my career. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my career. But I’ve played a lot of football in this league. … (so) everyone just assumes you’re in your mid-30s and on your way out.’’

Rudolph caught 64 passes for 634 yards last season, the second-best marks of his career. But he said the Vikings have not approached him or his agent about a contract extension that could lower his salary-cap number this season.

“I would love to help our cap situation,’’ he said.

He attended the Masters last weekend, which prompted a golf analogy in discussing his career. “I feel like I haven’t hit the back nine yet,’’ he said.

Ready to compete

Sean Mannion isn’t resting on his laurels. While he’s probably the favorite to win the backup quarterback job after signing a one-year, $900,000 contract this week, Mannion knows Kyle Sloter is waiting in the wings.

“I’m always competing,” said Mannion, 26. “My goal is to be the backup and be a great asset to this team and be ready to go in and win a game.”

A third-round draft pick by the Rams 2015, Mannion has appeared in 10 regular-season games, starting once, and has completed 33 of 53 passes (62.3 percent) for 258 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

“I felt great about my experience here and felt great about the system and the fit and the opportunity to work with a great organization and work with a great quarterback in Kirk,” Mannion said. “It just felt like it was a perfect scenario.”

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