The absence of Dalvin Cook has many fans and analysts around the league questioning the Vikings ability to generate an effective run-game. With memories of Dalvin burning the Bills in one of the best games of the year, breaking free against the Dolphins to seal a win, or taking a screen to the house in the NFL’s greatest comeback in history, many people are left wondering if the Vikings are taking a step back by letting him go. In order to address this concern it may prove helpful to examine the boom-or-bust nature of Cook’s 2022-2023 season. While there are many plays fans like to recall, it seems that statistics lay out a different story.
1.) In five games last season (Weeks 2,8,11,13,16) Cook averaged 3 or less yards per carry. This was most evident in the week 13 game against Detroit when Cook was held to 15 carries for 23 yards, an average of 1.5 yards per carry.
2.) 10 touchdowns in 17 games played. While much of this has to do with schematic decisions and play calling in the redzone, the lack of consistent touchdowns from Cook seems to be replaceable. Mattison was able to reach the end zone 6 times as the backup last season.
3.) Lack of use as a pass catcher. Upon the arrival of Kevin O’Connell many believed Cook would see greater usage in the pass game. In 17 games Cook registered 39 receptions for an average of just over 2 per game. While much of this can be blamed on play-calling and QB decision making, paying top dollar for a RB who isn’t being used in the pass game seems egregious.
New Year, New Hopes
1.) Schematic Changes: Here’s a quote from a pre-draft press conference from KOC that indicates a desired transition in the run-game:
“It comes down to efficiency, the home runs and long [runs] are great, but as a play caller, I’d love to be second-and-five. If you tell me I’m second-and-five, here we go. We’re in a position to do a lot of different things regardless of field position, score of the game, and personnel groupings.”
2.) Personal Decisions: The front office and coaching staff have reportedly made it clear that they value continuity in the offensive line. While there was plenty of room to improve for the Vikings O-line, the team has decided to run it back with the same starting five. To help these five, the front office brought back C.J Ham and signed Josh Oliver. Each of these moves indicate a desire to have a more consistent and physical run game. Gone are the days of hoping for an 80 yard TD, in are the days of consistently being able to pick up 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1 plays (Plays most Vikings fans are afraid to watch).
3.) Year 2 under the same play caller. Since Kirk Cousins has arrived in MN, each off-season has been filled with coaching transitions and play calling duties delegated to new people. For the first time in many years the offensive will hear the same voice in practices and games. Will this make a difference in the effectiveness in the run-game? Only time will tell… but there is great reason to have hope in a more consistent and effective run-game.