EAGAN, Minn. — Joshua Dobbs and the Minnesota Vikings finally had an opportunity to catch their breath, after a whirlwind arrival, a storybook start and two buzz-killing losses before their bye week.
He's still the quarterback for now. Their job is to provide enough support to keep him in his starting role — while maintaining positioning for the playoffs that has taken a precarious turn.
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell announced on Wednesday that Dobbs will remain the starter this week, after he threw four interceptions — three of them off a variety of deflections — during a damaging 12-10 defeat at home to Chicago on Nov. 27.
O’Connell acknowledged after that game he considered benching Dobbs to give the offense a spark.
“The conversation was smooth and open,” Dobbs said before practice. “I plan on making the most of this opportunity and bouncing back from the last time on the field.”
O'Connell decided Dobbs was the best option for the game at Las Vegas on Sunday and that he deserved another start, but the coach left wide open the possibility of a future switch.
“Our offense and our staff’s ability to evolve and help Josh thrive is our plan,” O'Connell said. “We’re very confident in him.”
When Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in the game at Green Bay on Oct. 29, the Vikings (6-6) have been scrambling ever since. Dobbs was a valuable find in a trade with Arizona, but the seventh-year veteran — trying to get up to speed on his third different playbook this season — has shown his limitations and vulnerabilities.
Off-the-mark throws are one thing. Six turnovers over the past two games — losses by a combined three points — are another. Over his first two games, both Vikings victories, Dobbs had no interceptions and two lost fumbles. He also totaled 110 rushing yards on 15 attempts in those games. In the past two outings, he took off 10 times and netted only 32 yards.
“Obviously it’s a process when you come in and you’re entrenched in a new offense very quickly and as they try to learn me and areas I’m able to thrive at, as well as me as I continue to learn the ins and outs of an offense,” Dobbs said.
Soon after the Chicago game, Dobbs sent a text message to O'Connell with a request to review the film together. Quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara joined them.
“There was a lot of growth moments for him in those discussions and for me as well,” O'Connell said.
Nick Mullens will be the backup this week. He's still returning to full strength from a lower back injury that kept him sidelined for more than a month. Rookie Jaren Hall, who was the first post-Cousins starter before a concussion forced him out and sent Dobbs in at Atlanta, will be third string.
Dobbs will get a big boost from the return of wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was activated last week from injured reserve. The 2022 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year has missed the past seven games with a strained hamstring.
“He happens to be an extremely friendly target with his catch radius and his ability to do pretty dynamic things with the ball after the catch," O'Connell said. “We’ll try to put together a plan that maximizes that.”