After they had to cater to Adrian Peterson for most of 10 seasons, Dalvin Cook is set to give the Vikings a diversely skilled running back.
There’s no doubt Adrian Peterson is an all-time great running back. But as he has approached and crossed 30 years old, his lack of ability to function outside his comfort zone hampered the Minnesota Vikings’ offense. He never progressed as a pass catcher or pass blocker, nor did he seem overly willing to work on those shortcomings.
It was a no-brainer for the Vikings to let Peterson hit the free agent market, rather than keep him at a bloated $18 million salary for this season. He eventually signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, and he made a return to Minnesota in the season opener for both teams Monday night.
Peterson got nine yards on his first carry for the Saints, offering a glimpse of the “All Day” of old. But that was it for highlights, as he finished with six carries for 18 yards and played a career-low nine snaps.
The Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook in the second round of April’s draft as their proverbial heir apparent to Peterson, and he got off to a slow start Monday night. But Cook finished with 22 carries for 127 yards, along with three catches (on five targets) for 10 yards, as he started to find some room to run when Minnesota began to grind away an eventual 10-point victory. As it were, Cook also surpassed Peterson and set a new Vikings’ record for rushing yards in a debut.
Peterson made it clear publicly he was not comfortable taking handoffs out of the shotgun or running without a fullback at the end of his time with the Vikings. That limited how he could be used effectively, though extended absences in two of his last three years with the team made that a moot point most of the time.
Cook took multiple handoffs out of shotgun formations Monday night, and on at least one occasion he was a difference maker in blitz pickup. Add in his three catches, which could have been five if not for two drops, and that’s an overall skill set the Vikings just have not had at running back lately.
Cook also seemed to lock down a workhorse role on Monday night, playing 51 of 65 snaps with Jerick McKinnon playing 11 snaps and Latavius Murray playing just three snaps. In any case, the rookie out of Florida State is primed to take the Vikings offense out of the Adrian Peterson stone age and give it the modern amenity of a running back who can functionally do it all.