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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Even with Gerhart gone, Vikings don't need to rush things at running back

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: March 20, 2014 - 9:52 AM

Adrian Peterson will celebrate his 29th birthday on Friday.

Wait. Strike that. He's a running back. They don't celebrate birthdays.

Yes, Peterson could be the exception to the rule. Again. He could blow by 30 like a locomotive, break Emmitt Smith's rushing record and play until he's 36, 37, who knows? After all, when you go for 2,097 the season after one of your legs nearly broke off at the knee, well, you have pretty much proved you have a high ceiling and don't deserve sports writers placing any sort of limitations on what you can and can't do.

But it is interesting or, better yet, a sign of the times that Peterson's dependable, primary backup the past four years won't be around as Peterson heads into the stage of his career when common sense suggests he will need a dependable, primary backup most. It's also a sign of the times that Peterson's long-time dependable, backup, Toby Gerhart, left without a peep from any direction to sign a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Jaguars.

The Vikings went into free agency with a need for depth at running back, but you couldn't have found a single person to rank it among the team's top eight or so needs. General Manager Rick Spielman also made it sound like a low priority.

"I know you can't go into the season with just two running backs," Spielman said. "So that's an area that we've talked about a couple of running backs that are currently out on the market. But we've also honed in on a couple of running backs in the draft as well."

The Vikings aren't doing anything unusual by not rushing to sign a veteran running back to replace Gerhart. Not in a league where the value placed on most veteran running backs lies somewhere south of the value placed on kickers.

There are so many good, young running backs available that it makes little sense to make a big investment in a veteran with NFL wear and tear.

In the Vikings' case, they have Matt Asiata, a 26-year-old with 47 career carries. At 6-feet, 234 pounds, he's not a change-of-pace guy, but he's a powerful runner who shows signs of being the kind of pass protector that Gerhart was (and Peterson isn't) on third downs. Whether Asiata can catch the ball as well as Gerhart remains to be seen, but when the Vikings needed a No. 3 back to step up for the injured Peterson and Gerhart late last season, Asiata proved satisfactory in a pinch.

He carried the ball 30 times for a forehead-splitting 51 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Eagles. Two weeks later, he ran just 14 times, but gained 115 yards in a season-ending win over the Lions.

The other reasons for the Vikings' patience at running back are two young backs on the practice squad. Both of them are intriguing prospects. Neither of them came into the league with any fanfare, but this league has a long history of backs coming out of nowhere to make an impact.

Joe Banyard, 25, is a 5-11, 210-pounder who saw action in three games for the Vikings last year. He caught one pass for 11 yards and has enough skills to compete for an NFL job.

The other guy on the practice squad is Bradley Randle. Bradley is one of those guys you see in Mankato the first time and say, "Who's that guy?" In Randle's case, I remember saying, "Who's No. 38?" 

You knew he wouldn't make the team, but he was fun to watch. The 5-7, 190-pounder had the kind of moves and speed you'd expect from someone standing 5-7 and wearing an NFL uniform. When he came out of Nevada-Las Vegas last year, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash.

The Vikings didn't have room for him, so they cut him, signed him to their practice squad, cut him and then re-signed him to their practice squad late last year.

If Asiata can fill the No. 2 role, a guy like Randle could be quite the change of pace from either of the top two guys.


Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees 5 Bottom 8th Inning
Toronto 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston 8 Top 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Miami 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Atlanta 2
Cleveland 4 Top 6th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 7 Top 5th Inning
Chicago WSox 1
Texas 7 Bottom 5th Inning
Houston 1
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 6th Inning
St. Louis 2
Colorado 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Arizona 0
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 28 4th Qtr 11:48
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 3rd Qtr 2:18
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 10 3rd Qtr 11:24
Western Ky 38
TX-San Antonio 7 2nd Qtr 14:54
Houston 0
Colorado State 0 2nd Qtr 12:23
Colorado 10
UNLV 9:30 PM
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Houston 0 1st Half 28:00
Sporting Kansas City 0
Ottawa 3 9:49
Montreal 13
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 9:00 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




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