The Minnesota Vikings are riding Latavius Murray aka the ‘Tay Train’

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 19: Latavius Murray
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 19: Latavius Murray /

After a tough start to the season, running back Latavius Murray has carried the load for the Minnesota Vikings in the backfield.

When the Minnesota Vikings signed Latavius Murray to a three-year deal in the offseason, the expectation was for the running back to replace Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Contrary to popular opinion though, Murray ended up falling to third on the depth chart to start the season, but understandably so.

Without a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Vikings saw one of the top running backs in the draft fall to the second round… Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. Sitting at pick no. 48, general manager Rick Spielman couldn’t wait any longer as he found a way to move up seven spots to select the electric back and we all know the result.

After a phenomenal training camp and preseason, Cook established himself as the clear-cut top back. Of course, Murray was still recovering from ankle surgery in the offseason, but Cook was destined for the starting role regardless. Through four games, Cook rushed for 354 yards on 74 carries, good enough for second in the league to fellow rookie phenom Kareem Hunt at the time. Unfortunately, the hot start came to an end when he went down with a torn ACL against the Detroit Lions.

As a result, eyes turned to Jerick McKinnon and Murray in the backfield. While both backs split the load pretty evenly without Cook, McKinnon looked like the go-to runner in the backfield. Two weeks following the injury, ‘Jet’ had 31 carries for 164 yards as well as 11 catches for 81 yards and three total touchdowns. On the other hand, Murray struggled, carrying the ball 27 times for 59 yards. For the season, Murray had 41 carries for 97 yards – a measly 2.4 yards per carry – and no touchdowns through six weeks.

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Undoubtedly, Murray needed to step up and perform like the ‘Tay Train,’ a nickname given to him in high school. One that stuck with him into his professional career as the featured back with the Raiders. A three-year tenure that included one Pro Bowl, 1,000-yard season and a 12-touchdown year last season.

Fortunately, it looks like the ‘Tay Train’ has arrived in Minnesota. As matter of fact, the train has been rolling strong since Week 7.

In all, Murray has turned a slow start into a very respectable stat line through 11 games. Specifically, he leads the Vikings in rushing with 496 yards on 130 carries, raising his yards per carry average to 3.8. Most importantly, he’s delivered in the red zone with four touchdowns in the last six games. The other touchdown during that stretch came on a 29-yard scamper against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7.

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While McKinnon has struggled to rush the ball over the last six weeks, Murray’s improved game has kept the rushing attack strong. In result, the Vikings have the eighth-ranked rushing offense after ranking last in 2016. Sure, Pat Shurmur and the offensive line deserve much credit for the success, but Murray’s play, along with McKinnon’s, has been just as admirable after losing a future star in Cook.

As it turns out, the addition of the ‘Tay Train’ has turned out to be another great, albeit underrated move for the Vikings. With the likes of free agent additions Case Keenum, Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers stealing the spotlight, Murray is deserving of just as much credit for Minnesota’s 9-2 record. Not to mention, a seven-game win streak that goes back to the game the Vikings lost Cook.

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Ultimately, a productive run game is a crucial part of an offense, so the Vikings are going to have to continue riding the ‘Tay Train’ and ‘Jet’ in the coming weeks. If they continue shouldering their load, the Vikings have one of the most potent, balanced offensive attacks in the league. With an elite defense, there’s no doubt this team can make serious noise come playoff team, hopefully resulting in a home Super Bowl. Skol Vikes!