Why Vikings running back Dalvin Cook can succeed right away

Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) outruns Clemson linebacker Korrin Wiggins (15) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Clemson won 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) outruns Clemson linebacker Korrin Wiggins (15) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Clemson won 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings ranked at the bottom of the NFL in rushing last season. With second round pick Dalvin Cook, the Vikings run game can drastically improve. 

If you watched any Minnesota Vikings games last season, you know how miserable the Vikings run game was. Yes, Adrian Peterson went down, as did starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, but let’s be honest, it didn’t look promising to begin with.

In the first two games, Peterson had 31 carries for 50 yards or 1.6 yards per carry (YPC) with the help, or lack thereof, of both starting tackles. The dismal 1.6 YPC was half the team’s season total of 3.2, which stands as the worst team YPC since the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. Basically, the first couple of games proved the running attack would be problematic, even with a healthy squad.

While the rushing totals likely would have ended better with a healthy Peterson, it’s clear that Peterson is on the decline and needs more help from the offensive line, something that he hasn’t had much of in his 10-year career with Minnesota. Hence, his signing with the New Orleans Saints should come as no surprise, as the Vikings transition to a backfield led by Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook, who is the solution to the Vikings’ rushing problems.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

You say, “that’s a lot of faith you have in a second round pick who will be behind a line still full of question marks,” and I’d agree with you, BUT I’d also argue my faith is in the right place.

I acknowledge the Vikings missed out on the top offensive linemen in free agency and didn’t address the line until the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Nevertheless, I believe the offensive line has improved, even if it’s just from below average to average, with the additions of tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, along with third round pick Pat Elflein.

But, let’s say the offensive line hasn’t improved, I still have faith that Cook can produce right away. Just read what Pro Football Focus has to say on Cook:

"What he does best:-Outstanding vision, patience to allow blocks to develop playside but also decisive when presented with backside opportunities-Breaks long runs in spite of his blocking. Home run waiting to happen-Great fit in an outside zone scheme, best using his instincts to pick lanes and athleticism on the move-Elite acceleration ensures consistent big-play potential-Sufficient long speed to outrun defenders. Angle-changing speed-Able to make defenders miss at full speed, finished tops in elusive rating-Aggressive north/south runner, rarely looks to bounce plays outside-Not always searching for big play. Rarely takes losses, keeps the offense ahead of the chains-Even behind subpar run-blocking in 2016, made the most of it and showed the ability to take what is given"

Two things stick out. Cook’s vision and play-making ability.

In fact, outstanding vision from the running back position is something that Vikings fans haven’t seen in awhile, especially from Peterson. Instead, Peterson tends to rely on his play-making ability to make something happen rather than take what the offensive line gives him. On the contrary, Cook is more patient, allowing the line to make a hole before hitting it, which makes a line look a lot better.

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Yet, Cook also has the play-making ability to make something happen out of nothing. According to PFF, he averaged 4.2 yards after contact and led the nation with 99 missed tackles forced, as he went on to rush for 1,765 yards in his final season with the Florida State Seminoles.

To go along with his elusiveness, he also has the game-changing speed and acceleration to create big-plays, as he showed last season against the national champion Clemson Tigers when he carried the ball 19 times for 169 yards and 4 touchdowns, including a 70 yard touchdown run.

As mentioned by PFF, all of this took place behind “subpar run-blocking,” which is encouraging, considering how poor the Vikings’ run blocking was last season and could be again this season.

These are signs that Cook has the ability to single-handedly change the state of the Vikings’ rushing attack. If you’re still pessimistic that he doesn’t have the supporting cast to thrive in the pro game, just look at Arizona Cardinal’s running back David Johnson, who rushed for 1,239 yards and 20 total touchdowns behind an offensive line that was ranked 26th by PFF last season.

While I am not here to proclaim that Cook will become the next David Johnson, the proof is there that a running back with Cook’s skill set can change a rushing attack, even with below average line play. So, if Cook breaks out for the Vikings this season, don’t be surprised because that’s what special players do, even if the supporting cast is less than ideal.

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