Dalvin Cook likes the nickname ‘Chef Cook,’ and the Vikings appear intent on letting that catch on.
Only because Cook will be a household name soon if he continues to produce the way he did in his NFL debut. The Vikings rookie churned out 22 carries for 127 rushing yards, putting a stamp on the Vikings’ win over the Saints with a strong fourth quarter.
Cook can expect the Vikings to keep feeding him moving forward, according to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
“He had what, 22 carries?” Shurmur asked. “Yeah, he’s a really good player, so we want him to touch the ball.”
Shurmur added he’d like to see Latavius Murray get more involved after the veteran had just two carries on three snaps. Murray didn’t help himself with a fumble on the first carry, likely pushing the ball back into Cook’s arms as he finished out the night playing 51 of a possible 65 snaps.
“It was about what I expected,” Cook said, adding running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu is “a guy of rhythm” who wanted to stay with the hot hand against the Saints.
Cook’s debut would’ve been even bigger had he held onto a third-down catch that could’ve been a touchdown in the red zone. The lights inside U.S. Bank Stadium affected his drop, according to Cook and Shurmur.
Cook said it’s “not an excuse.”
“It’s something I need to get better at,” Cook said. “Go out there pregame and do a better job of tracking the ball.”
Barr held out again
Linebacker Anthony Barr was unable to practice for a second consecutive day Thursday because of a hamstring injury. Barr walked through position drills with his teammates during the portion of practice that was open to reporters, but he was listed as a nonparticipant again on the team’s official injury report.
Two cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes (hip) and Terence Newman (knee), were midweek additions to the injury report. Both were limited in Thursday’s practice. Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, who probably would be Barr’s replacement on Sunday, was limited because of a hamstring injury.
Quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) threw during quarterback and receiver drills but was also limited again during practice.
‘He’s got to play well’
The Vikings’ coaches review of receiver Laquon Treadwell was strong despite him being targeted just once, which he caught for 7 yards and a first down, in an otherwise active night for the offense. Treadwell played a career-high 36 snaps against the Saints.
“He blocked really well,” Shurmur said. “Unfortunately, the ball only went his way once and he made his catch. That’s what you need to do.”
They’re still looking to rely on Treadwell, according to Shurmur, after Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 16 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1.
“In order for us to be a really good offense, he’s got to play well,” Shurmur said.
A measured approach
Running back Jerick McKinnon made a solid debut as the Vikings kick returner, but special teams coordinator Mike Priefer would like McKinnon’s first attempt back. Priefer vowed to keep fielding returns from deep in the end zone despite losing All-Pro returner Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason to the Oakland Raiders.
So McKinnon took the first kickoff return from about 8 to 9 yards deep in the end zone. He was quickly corralled at the Vikings’ own 15-yard line instead of taking the touchback to the 25-yard line.
“[McKinnon] is an aggressive guy, and I’m an aggressive guy,” Priefer said. “Sometimes I’ve got to tone it down. I’ve got to be the adult in that situation and tone him down a little bit.”