EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Kirk Cousins is coming to MetLife Stadium as a villain in purple and gold.
The Vikings quarterback was hotly pursued by the Jets in the offseason, with New York offering a massive three-year, $90 million deal to be the man to lead the struggling franchise. Instead, Cousins chose to go to Minnesota, which actually signed him to a deal worth $6 million less.
The details of his free agency journey after six years in Washington were captured in a documentary series recently posted by the Vikings. It led to some harsh takes by New York-area media for using the Jets as leverage, and will undoubtedly result in plenty of boos from scorned fans when Cousins takes the field Sunday. And, the veteran quarterback is ready for it all.
”Criticism is going to be a part, especially when you’re going into an opposing team’s media climate,” Cousins said. ”They’re going to find ways to criticize.”
Oh, and fittingly, New York is holding a Marvel-sponsored promotion Sunday with a Hulk (the Jets, of course) vs. Thor (the Vikings, of course) theme.
As everything turned out, though, Jets fans can’t be too disappointed by the snub.
After being turned down by Cousins, New York focused fully on the draft. The Jets swung a stunning deal with Indianapolis to move up to No. 3 overall and ended up grabbing Sam Darnold.
”Either you get him or you don’t,” coach Todd Bowles said. ”We didn’t have him and we are happy with Sam. I’m sure they are happy with Kirk.”
Cousins has the Vikings off to a 3-2-1 start , and has thrown 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions. His 185 completions rank second in the NFL, one behind Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck.
The Jets know, in the back of their minds, that Cousins could’ve been doing that for them. Still, they insist there are no hard feelings or a sense for delivering some revenge.
”I don’t pay any attention to that,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. ”The guy’s a competitor. He came from a position that he didn’t really like and made the most of it. I don’t hold anything against him.”
Meanwhile, Darnold has shown nice progress the last few weeks and made the Cousins situation a distant memory .
The 21-year-old rookie was 24 of 30 for 280 yards and two touchdowns with an interception last week in a 42-34 win over Indianapolis. His 80.0 completion percentage was the highest by a Jets rookie in a single game, and Darnold looks for his third straight outing with at least two TD passes.
”Yeah,” Darnold said, ”everything worked out for the best, I think.”
Here are some other things to know as the Jets host the Vikings:
The Jets are looking to sweep a three-game homestand after wins against the Broncos and Colts. And they’ll try to do it against a team they’ve never lost to at home.
New York is 8-2 in 10 all-time meetings with Minnesota, including 5-0 at home.
”It’s huge,” Darnold said. ”I think it’s safe to say we want to win every single game we play, but definitely on a homestand, winning every single game that we get at home because our fans are amazing.”
The Vikings are tied for fifth in the NFL with 18 sacks, with defensive end Danielle Hunter tied with Houston’s J.J. Watt for the league lead with seven sacks apiece. The presence of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the 2013 first-round draft pick by the Jets, has been a boost to an already stout front four.
Richardson is tied for eighth in the NFL with 10 quarterback hits, and has taken on more double-team blocks than he expected, allowing Hunter and his other teammates more space to disrupt the opposing backfield.
The last two years of Richardson’s tenure with the Jets were rocky , but after a one-season stop in Seattle he has felt settled in Minnesota despite playing on a one-year, prove-it contract.
”A good situation, a good team, good family oriented guys, good coaching staff,” Richardson said. ”Can’t really beat it.”
DEALIN’ WITH THIELEN
The Jets will be missing safety Marcus Maye on Sunday because of a broken thumb, but he’s not the only concern in the secondary. Cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and Buster Skrine (concussion) are uncertain to play, which means New York will have to get creative against Vikings receiver Adam Thielen.
Thielen leads the NFL with 58 catches – the most by a player through the first six games in league history – and 712 yards receiving. He also has 100 or more yards receiving in every game.
Rookie Parry Nickerson and veteran Darryl Roberts could end up seeing a lot of Thielen.
”Whether you double him, triple him, single him or play zone, he finds a way to get open and get it done,” Bowles said.
AN ANSWER FOR Q
Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa will miss the game with a sprained ankle that could sideline him for a few weeks.
It’s a big blow to the offense – especially Darnold, who had developed a nice rapport with him. Enunwa leads the team with 22 catches and 287 yards receiving.
Jermaine Kearse, who led New York in receptions last year, might be the immediate beneficiary. He caught a season-high nine passes for 94 yards last week.
HUNTING FOR QUARTERBACKS
Hunter, who will turn 24 on Oct. 29, has 32+ sacks in 52 career regular-season games.
His prowess, plus the emergence of third-year defensive end Stephen Weatherly, helped the Vikings overcome the unexpected absence of three-time Pro Bowl pick Everson Griffen, who remains away from the team indefinitely for mental health reasons . Hunter has played 216 of a possible 239 snaps in four games Griffen has been inactive.
”I think Danielle can play a million plays if he wanted to,” coach Mike Zimmer said. ”He’s built like Adonis.”
AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell contributed.
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