Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings 2013 look ahead: Running backs

Posted by: under Vikings, NFL draft, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: January 21, 2013 - 11:40 AM

The Vikings coaching staff and front office are in the process of fully evaluating their roster as they plan for the opening of free agency in March as well as April’s NFL Draft. As General Manager Rick Spielman, head coach Leslie Frazier and their respective staffs put their heads together, the Access Vikings team is doing the same. We are in the middle of delivering snapshot evaluations of every position group. Today, we look at the running backs.

RUNNING BACKS

Get excited: Adrian Peterson recorded the second most prolific rushing season in NFL history and then headed into the offseason driven to do even more. Seriously.

He might not be human.

Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards this past season and tied an NFL record with seven runs of at least 50 yards. And then he used the confidence gained from that remarkable run to set his goals for 2013 even higher.

So here it is: Peterson is aiming to rush for 2,500 yards.

“All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me,” he said on the day he cleaned out his locker at Winter Park two weeks ago. “With that, there’s not much you can’t accomplish. So I set that goal. That’s a mark that I want to reach. No one has ever tried to accomplish something like that. So I just shoot high – for myself.”

Let’s be reasonable about this. Thoughts of a 2,500-yard rushing season are outlandish. Asinine even. That would require an average of 156.3 yards per game. And for Peterson to top 2,000 this past season, it required Percy Harvin to be absent for the final seven games of the season, a dynamic that added to the running back’s opportunities. Plus, the Vikings had little potency in their passing attack, something Peterson himself should want changed for the Vikings’ long-term hopes.

But even with all that said, mention that 2,500-yard total to anybody in the Vikings locker room and it doesn’t even draw a snicker.

More of a shrug and a sentiment of “Hey, if anyone can do it, Adrian can.”

That’s part of Peterson’s allure, his ability to make even ridiculous goals seems reachable.

Here’s what right guard Brandon Fusco had to say: “It’s something I think he can accomplish. For sure. It’s scary to say. But why not? Why can’t he get there? It’s possible. You look at what he just did this season and we had a slow start in the running game. I think everyone would agree that he was getting better at the end of the season. We know our identity and what he’s capable of, so like I say, why not?”

It is worth noting that in this season’s final eight games, Peterson amassed 1,322 rushing yards. You do the math.

Keep an eye on: Peterson benefited in 2012 from the lead blocking of fullback Jerome Felton, who was rewarded for his efforts with an invitation to the Pro Bowl. The Vikings signed Felton to a one-year “prove it” deal last March. And well, Felton proved it, establishing himself as a bruising, durable and dependable fullback who delivered key and crushing blocks on many of Peterson’s longest runs.

So now what? Well, Felton has made it very clear he wants to re-sign with the Vikings as soon as possible, extremely comfortable with his role here and appreciative of the opportunity he’s been given. The Vikings want Felton back for obvious reasons as well. Now it’s a matter of the front office and Felton’s agent, Sean Howard, working out the right deal.

That should happen well before free agency opens in mid-March.

Reason for worry: Boy, sure seems like a stretch to say there’s any reason for worry with the running back unit. Maybe there’s some worry for Toby Gerhart, who will enter the final year of his rookie deal after carrying the ball only 50 times for 169 yards in 2012. There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity to spread around with Peterson handling nearly 82 percent of the Vikings’ non-quarterback rushes this season.

So what’s in store for Gerhart’s future? Is he comfortable retaining a limited role as a Peterson insurance plan here in Minnesota? Or will he desire to find heightened opportunity elsewhere? That’s a question that needs answering. But not right away. The plan in 2013 will be very similar to how the Vikings operated in 2012.

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Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
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Chicago 103
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Houston 88
Milwaukee 41 2nd Qtr 6:37
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Golden State 4
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
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Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 3rd Prd
Montreal 1
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Los Angeles 0
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San Jose 0
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
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Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
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Stetson 67
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Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
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Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
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Austin Peay 76
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Bradley 80
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Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
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Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 2nd Half 0:16
UAB 70
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Cal State Fullerton 30
Walla Walla 18 2nd Half
Idaho 49
DePaul 24 1st Half 3:11
Oregon State 42
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Pacific 35
Portland State 22 2nd Half
San Francisco 46
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UMBC 55 FINAL
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Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
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South Dakota 115
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Wofford 51
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Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
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Tulsa 78
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TX-Pan American 65
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South Dakota St 67
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Northern Ariz 71
Washington 69 FINAL
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