The Minnesota Vikings need a boost from their running game. With Latavius Murray on the shelf, rookie Dalvin Cook could see significant carries.
The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2016 offseason with one glaring hole on offense. They needed to replace future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. In March, they signed Latavius Murray to a three year contract. In April, they were gifted a steal in the draft when Dalvin Cook fell to the 41 pick.
Cook is potentially the best all-around back in this draft class. His slide in the draft was likely due to a less-than-stellar combine performance, but he is still a sensational running back. And after garnering praise at training camp, he could have a bigger workload than expected this season.
At Florida State, Cook showed both the ability to run through the tackles and burst to get to the second level. While he may not be the bruising runner that Leonard Fournette is, or the elite pass catcher that Christian McCaffrey is, he is very good at both.
An advantage of coming out of a pro-style scheme in college is that Cook came into the league with a good idea of pass blocking schemes. Inability to recognize and pick up the pass rush typically haunts rookie running backs, but Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been extremely impressed with the rookie.
In a press conference this week, Shurmur told reporters, “I don’t see any elements of running back play that [Cook] can’t be very good at and pass protection is one of them.”
He’s got a great background in [pass protection]. I think the last time we visited here, we talked about how he has a really great foundation coming from Florida State, so he understands the big picture, he understands our terminology as to who we’re blocking and he really has a good feel for the game.
With Latavius Murray still sidelined with an ankle injury, Cook is getting the majority of first-team reps. Last season, Minnesota ranked 25th in rushing attempts and dead last in rushing yards. Minnesota has showed they clearly do not want to lean on Jerick McKinnon again. Sam Bradford finished 2016 ranked 6th in passer rating. Relying on Bradford to be as efficient may prove to be futile. This could lead to more rushing attempts.
Pat Schurmur’s offenses the past four seasons have ranked 4, 7, 11 and 25 in rushing attempts. One of these is not like the others. In 2016, Minnesota ranked 26 in offensive DVOA, a Football Outsiders efficiency rank. They were 31 in rushing DVOA.
Even with a potentially elite defense, Minnesota needs more from this offense. Cook could help that. I expect Schurmur and the Vikings to attempt to establish a more efficient running game this season and Dalvin Cook could be the beneficiary of a larger workload than most are expecting.