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 roster analysis: Running backs

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: February 12, 2014 - 9:53 AM

We'll take a daily look at where the Vikings' roster stands at the moment position-by-position leading up to our NFL Combine coverage next week.

Position: Running back

On the roster: Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Zach Line

Free agents: Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata (Exclusive rights free agent)

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks posted an interesting article about a new offensive trend for some of the top teams in the league: a power running game.

Speaking to a few NFL executives at the Senior Bowl, they’d agree with Brooks’ assessment, noting how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick used running back LeGarrette Blount late in the season and during the divisional round against the Colts (24 carries, 166 yards and four touchdowns). If Belichick is doing it, then it’s a good sign other teams will catch on soon. The Seahawks, who just won the Super Bowl, are another great example of a power running style with Marshawn Lynch.

It’s hard to find a better power back than Adrian Peterson when healthy with fullback Jerome Felton leading the way as well in two-back formations. The Vikings finished eighth in the NFL last year in rushing with 130.1 yards a game. Peterson missed two games but still finished fifth with 1,266 rushing yards, averaging 4.5 yards a carry.

Peterson had successful groin surgery on Jan. 23 and was expected to make a full recovery in another three weeks. He battled with the injury throughout the season and suffered a foot sprain on top of that in Week 14 against the Ravens.

Can Peterson, who will turn 29 by the start of next season, remain healthy for a full season? And who will be his backup?

Toby Gerhart replaced Peterson, but he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 15 and again the following week, leaving the team down to Matt Asiata at the position at the end of the season.

As an exclusive rights free agent, the Vikings can offer Asiata at a third-year veteran minimum salary. Asiata would have to accept the deal, if offered, or leave the NFL.

While Asiata has a good shot to return next season, it’s hard to see Gehart back in Minnesota. He has the talent to be a lead running back or at the very least in a two-back system, which won’t happen with Peterson. There are a few teams that could use a running back, including the Dolphins, Browns and Giants.

With Peterson back, this should still arguably the strongest position on the team with his credentials. How the Vikings handle the backup situation will be important in case Peterson misses time during the season again.

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