Vikings' No. 1 defense providing a challenge to new quarterback Kirk Cousins

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Defense's continuity and ability to communicate stands out as Cousins' practices against top unit.

EAGAN, Minn. – Kirk Cousins’ transition to being the leader of the Minnesota Vikings’ as a result of being the $84 million franchise quarterback, by most accounts, has been seamless.

Cousins has quickly grown into a fan favorite if the lines for the quarterback signing session at training camp are an indication. Cousins has spoken glowingly about the team’s facilities, leadership and his teammates, as well as the fans and community in the Twin Cities.

The toughest part for Cousins might just be facing his own defense.

Cousins shared a bit about what it’s like to face the Vikings’ defense, which lead the league in fewest yards and fewest points allowed last season.

“If I make a check, they make a check because they’re all on the same page,” Cousins said on Wednesday. “One time in OTAs, and I believe you all were here this day, I saw they were bringing a pressure. I made a check to have an answer. They then checked to get out of the pressure, so I was left stuck with a play that’s not very good versus their max-zone coverage.

“I went over to coach Zim afterwards and I said, ‘Tell me a little bit about what is going on there.’ He said, ‘Well, they’re not supposed to do that. They were supposed to leave the play on, but they’ve been playing together for so long, they’re so dialed in, that even if the play clock’s winding down or even if you’re getting your check out quickly, they know. One hand signal, one word and everybody knows what to do.’”

Cousin’s sees Minnesota’s defense on a daily basis in training camp. Understandably, the defense has been a bit ahead of the offense in training camp. The Vikings return 10 starters with newcomer Sheldon Richardson the lone new face at defensive tackle.

Meanwhile, Cousins is getting used to his new teammates and everyone is adjusting to new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

“I think that’s the hard part because when you have a brand-new quarterback, brand new offensive coordinator, we can’t say the same thing on offense,” Cousins said. “So, the continuity (among the defense) in addition to all the talent they have, I think helps them play at a high level.”

Making matters more difficult is starting center Pat Eflein hasn’t practiced yet after starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Starting left guard Nick Easton, who was practicing in Elflein’s spot in center, and No. 1 right guard Mike Remmers have also missed recent practices with injuries.

But DeFilippo and Cousins both said improvement is coming offensively as the team prepares for its first preseason game on Saturday in Denver.

"I thought the last couple of days offensively we've started to put things together a little bit,” DeFilippo said. “The timing has been better. The cohesiveness has been better. That communication has been better. That's been really good to see. I'm happy where we are right now. It's that time of camp to go play against somebody else.

“You know, the defense knows our calls, we know their calls, it's getting a little chippy out there, so it's time to take some chippiness out on somebody else. Denver is a great matchup for us. Our young players are going to get press coverage and to play football in this league you have to be able to get off of press coverage. It's going to be great for our guys to be able to experience that and go out for the first time and play against somebody else."