Vikings to start Josh Dobbs vs. Raiders despite turnovers

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EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings are sticking with quarterback Josh Dobbs for at least one more week, coach Kevin O’Connell said Wednesday.

Dobbs will start Sunday’s game at the Las Vegas Raiders despite committing six turnovers in the past two games, both losses. O’Connell spent the bye week reviewing Dobbs’ four games and considered turning to backup Nick Mullens or No. 3 quarterback Jaren Hall. Ultimately, though, he decided to try aggressively adjust the Vikings’ scheme to comport with Dobbs’ skills.

“We’ve been in a process of trying to provide him with clarity on what we’re doing offensively and then we’re learning a lot about each other as we go,” O’Connell said. “That’s why I love having him here — his work ethic, spending a lot of time with him, getting to know him, and continuing to dive deeper into what helps him be the best version of himself. That’s what I know that we pride ourselves on around here, is helping our players do that.

“So whether it’s schematically, fundamentally, what are we asking him to do in what situation or phase of the game? That’s where we can continue to all elevate our ability to help each other but, more importantly, elevate Josh’s ability to sustain success.”

Speaking later to reporters, Dobbs said the upcoming changes to the Vikings’ offense will be “just tweaks” but made clear that he and O’Connell had several conversations — including a one-on-one film session — during the bye week to help tailor the scheme.

“I think you can always overspeculate based on a previous performance, both good and bad,” Dobbs said. “There’s no reason to blow it up, man. We’ve just got to do what we’re good at, protect the football and make the routine plays when we’re out there. If we do that, we’ll play good football. It’s very simple.”

The Vikings built their offense this season around veteran pocket passer Kirk Cousins, who was tied for the NFL lead in touchdown passes (18) and ranked second in passing yards (2,331) when he suffered a season-ending rupture of his right Achilles tendon in Week 8. Mullens was on injured reserve at the time because of a back injury, prompting the Vikings to acquire Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 31 to serve as a backup to Hall.

When Hall suffered a concussion in the first quarter of his first start, Dobbs replaced him, and Dobbs has played most of the Vikings’ past four games. He led them to victories in their first two, but his turnovers played a significant role in the losses that followed.

O’Connell wasn’t specific about the schematic adjustments he has made, but they’re likely to include less reliance on timing-based passing routes that Cousins honed over two years of practice in O’Connell’s offense. No matter the specifics, the scheme will no doubt benefit from Sunday’s return of receiver Justin Jefferson, who missed seven games because of a right hamstring injury.

Week 14 NFL schedule for the 2023 season is stacked with great matchups, and we have you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game and a bold prediction for each matchup.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a game projection and a look at the playoff picture. Analytics writer Seth Walder picks out each matchup’s biggest X factor, and fantasy analyst Eric Moody hands out helpful fantasy football intel. Finally, Walder and Moody give us final score picks for every game. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 14 slate, including the Rams’ road trip to Baltimore, Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen and an NFC East battle between the Cowboys and Eagles. It all culminates with two “Monday Night Football” matchups: Titans-Dolphins (ESPN) and Packers-Giants (ABC/ESPN+). Game times are Sunday unless noted, and all playoff chance percentages are via FPI.

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