1. The Vikings are just fine with Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray in the backfield.
One of the biggest stories heading into Week 5 was if the Vikings could rush the ball effectively without Cook. Well, McKinnon and Murray responded well, combining for 126 yards on 28 carries against a solid Bears run defense.
The Viking Age
Yes, those numbers are heavily inflated by the 58-yard touchdown by McKinnon, but even so, the rushing offense played well enough to win. That’s all you could ask for when losing one of the top young running backs in the league.
Particularly, McKinnon had arguably the best game of his career with 96 yards on 16 carries to go along with a team-leading 51 yards receiving on six catches. He ran hard and displayed a quick burst on multiple plays throughout the game.
Clearly, he outperformed Murray, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. I fully expect the Vikings to ride the hot hand, although McKinnon is likely the pass catching back of the two.
That being said, Murray didn’t look bad with a larger role in the offense. He only had 12 carries for 31 yards, but he looked more fluid running the ball compared to previous weeks. In fact, I was surprised Minnesota didn’t give him the ball more earlier in the game, especially with a hurt Bradford at quarterback.
Overall, the Vikings backfield filled in admirably for Cook and should serve just fine for the remainder of the season.
2. Michael Floyd or Laquon Treadwell need to step up, especially if Stefon Diggs misses time.
Stefon Diggs spent some of the second half on the sidelines because of a groin injury. Not a great sign after missing time last season due to knee and hip issues.
In his absence, Kyle Rudolph stepped up having his best game of the season catching six passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Vikings best touchdown celebration of the year.
After a couple of quiet games from the Vikings star tight end, the results against the Bears were definitely a great sign. Minnesota needs Rudolph to be a threat in the red zone and build off an 83-catch season where he put up 840 yards.
Luckily, Diggs finished the game, but he doesn’t have a great history of staying healthy. If he ever has to sit, it’s important to see Floyd or Treadwell make an impression in the offense given an opportunity where one of them has to take Diggs’ place.
Now, I give Floyd a bit of a break in this one considering it was his first game back following a four-game suspension. He deserves time to get back into the flow of the Vikings offense and under Bradford, there weren’t many opportunities against the Bears.
Yet, Treadwell has been as disappointing as he was last season. If he keeps this up, do the Vikings think about owning up to a mistake and cutting bait with their 2016 first round pick after the year? Maybe during this season?
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The fact Minnesota cut running back Stevan Ridley to make room for Floyd on the roster shows they see something in rookies Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams they don’t want to lose. With Teddy Bridgewater on the verge of returning to the team, one would think the Vikings can’t afford to carry seven wideouts though.
Basically, it’s important for Treadwell to start producing otherwise he may go down as one of the biggest Vikings busts of all-time. Not to mention, find himself looking for another team.
Regardless, someone has to step up. Floyd and Treadwell seem to have the biggest opportunity to do so. If they don’t, do the Vikings think about letting Coley or Adams get a few looks in the offense? A couple seasons ago, Minnesota gave Diggs an opportunity as a fifth round rookie and he ran with it. So, it shouldn’t be out of the question.
Like I said, let’s see how Floyd progresses given his track record of success before we come to that conclusion. Who knows? Maybe even Treadwell starts to perform. But, point is, Minnesota needs a reliable third receiver, especially if Diggs misses time.