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.


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.

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Toronto 1 Bottom 1st Inning
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Buffalo 0
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St. Louis 7
Washington 7 1st Qtr 5:03
Philadelphia 7
Houston 0 1st Qtr 3:01
NY Giants 0
Minnesota 0 1st Qtr 6:08
New Orleans 7
Tennessee 0 1st Qtr 4:18
Cincinnati 3
Baltimore 3 1st Qtr 3:25
Cleveland 0
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Detroit 7
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Rice 42
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(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
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(11) Michigan State 73
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Pittsburgh 20
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(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
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Duke 47
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Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
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Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
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(8) LSU 29
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Memphis 36
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Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
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Ohio U 36
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South Alabama 6
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New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
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Arizona 49
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Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
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Ga Southern
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(15) Arizona State
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(20) Kansas State
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(13) Georgia
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Kentucky
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(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
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Purdue
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Rutgers
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(19) Wisconsin
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Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
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Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
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Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
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Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
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Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
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Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(22) Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
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(10) Ole Miss
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Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
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(24) Nebraska
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(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
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Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
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Hamilton 25
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Ottawa 3:00 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 NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
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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