When talking about the strengths of the Vikings, two position groups always appear in the discussion — wide receivers and running backs. The receiving corps includes the stars Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Jefferson has led the league in receiving yards throughout the last two seasons. His 3,016 yards top all players, including Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs. Thielen, meanwhile, transformed from the yardage machine to a true red zone weapon in recent years. His 24 receiving touchdowns rank him third in the NFL in the last two seasons. Thielen’s connection with Cousins in the red zone is remarkable and shows their trust.
The Vikings running backs are another impressive group. Cody Benjamin from CBS put together a ranking of the top 10 RB rotations in the 2022 season. The Vikings landed in the third spot.
The runners listed by CBS are starter Dalvin Cook, his backup Alexander Mattison, and speedster Kene Nwangwu. The Vikings, however, have even more depth. Ty Chandler was a sixth-round draft pick out of North Carolina. He possesses great speed and can catch the football, something the other backups lack.
Even the fullback, C.J. Ham, is a big part of the Vikings’ running game. He can open holes for other backs with his great blocking ability, catch the football and even run the ball. The group is highlighted by star halfback Cook. The CBS article talks highly about the RB, “There are maybe one or two backs who command more attention than Cook when fully healthy. Even if he’s a safe bet to miss a week or three each season, the Vikings star is one of the most gifted natural runners in football. His top speed is unreal.”
Cook came into the league and instantly looked like a star. In Week 4 of his rookie year, he tore his ACL. Subsequently, he missed the remainder of the season and lacked his explosiveness in 2018 after his return. From 2019 on, however, he has been fantastic. Since 2019, the 3,851 rushing yards rank him second in the league, only trailing Derrick Henry, just like his 35 rushing touchdowns.
The big knock on Cook is his inability to stay healthy. He never played more than 14 games in a season and played in just 56 games in his five-year career. Even after the torn ACL, he missed 13 games in the last four campaigns. The Vikings need a good insurance policy for the player, and they have one. His name is Alexander Mattison. Mattison steps in for Cook whenever he can’t play and does a phenomenal job. Benjamin praised the runner, “Mattison, meanwhile, is practically a clone in terms of size and has been an underrated No. 2 for years.”
He lacks Cook’s playmaking ability but can consistently carry the ball for a solid gain. Mattison started six games in his career and rushed for over 90 yards in four. He was also a big part of the passing game in five of the six games. Whenever his number is called, he delivers.
Kene Nwangwu didn’t have that opportunity yet. In the 2021 preseason, the dynamic runner missed the preseason games and didn’t play a lot on offense during the season. His ability as a true running back is still a big question mark. However, he scored twice on kick returns as a rookie despite starting the season on injured reserve. No other player returned to kicks for touchdowns last season.
New head coach Kevin O’Connell is fully expected to implement a pass-first offensive system. The Vikings will still depend on their ability to run the football, especially because of their talented backs. A balanced offense is a way to go. Teams that throw and run are harder to stop and can change their identity weekly.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt.