If the Vikings need any more reasons to bring Adrian Peterson back this fall, they need look no further than the Seattle Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch to see that having a strong running game will be key to turning the Vikings back into Super Bowl contenders.
For the Vikings to continue improving with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and with coach Mike Zimmer at the helm, there is no single player in the league who can keep that process moving better — and turn their offense into a real threat to win the NFC — than Peterson.
Lynch and Peterson have been the two best backs in the NFL since they were drafted in the first round in 2007. Peterson went No. 7 to the Vikings and Lynch No. 12 to Buffalo.
Lynch has run for 8,695 yards in his career, including 5,357 yards over the past four seasons in Seattle.
Peterson has run for 10,190 yards in his career, including his suspension-shortened 2014. He has run for over 1,000 yards in six of his eight NFL seasons, and of course he is one of only seven running backs to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
When Pete Carroll took over the Seahawks in 2010, he saw Lynch as the key piece to improving a team that was 9-23 in the two seasons before his arrival, so he made a deal with the Bills to get Lynch for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks.
The trade happened during the Seahawks’ bye week in Carroll’s first season. They finished 7-9, reached the playoffs as NFC West champion and defeated the Saints, with Lynch making his biggest impact with a memorable 67-yard touchdown run in a 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
While Lynch has been under a mountain of stupid press because of his dislike of talking to reporters, Carroll loves him and told the New York Times recently: “I don’t think he’s being misunderstood. People are starting to learn about who he is and what he’s all about. He’s a treasure.”
Lynch was at his most dominant in Seattle’s come-from-behind victory over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game when he ran for 120 yards after halftime.
As for Peterson, he proved in 2012 that when he is at his best there is no bigger impact player. He rushed for 2,097 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and led the Vikings to the playoffs with a 199-yard performance against Green Bay in the final game of the regular season.
Lynch and Peterson have long been linked because they were drafted the same season and have similar aggressive running styles.
Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith told NFL.com this week that the two backs stand out in the league.
“When I look at [Lynch] running, his running style, I haven’t seen anyone out there quite like him,” he said. “I know Adrian Peterson is a little different, but Marshawn Lynch is a very, very tough running back.”
One man who knows both players very well is former Vikings and current Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who broke down their styles last year for ESPN.
“They both are the ultimate competitors,” he said. “But they have different styles. Marshawn is going to make people miss in a phone booth, in a small area. He’s going to come out of the stacks a lot.
“Adrian has that top-end breakaway speed. He can still make people miss, but he’s not going to do it quite like Marshawn. When Adrian comes out the back end, he can be gone.”
There’s no question that Peterson’s issues from injuring his 4-year-old son, including an NFL suspension, are factors the Vikings have to consider. But if he is contrite and working toward a better understanding of his responsibilities to his children, there is no reason for the Vikings to trade or release him.
He has the support of teammates and coaches — receiver Greg Jennings repeated this Friday, telling Pro Football Talk that the entire team is eager to have him back. The Vikings front office has to know that backs like him come along very rarely, and you have to keep them if you can.
Wilson breaks the mold
Sunday, Russell Wilson will become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start two Super Bowls, beating Tom Brady, his opponent, by about four months. According to USA Today, Wilson, a third-round draft choice by Seattle, has also won more games in his first three seasons, including the playoffs, than any other quarterback in the Super Bowl era, with 42.
Wilson’s story is somewhat reminiscent of the Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater. Both were standout college quarterbacks who had question marks heading into the NFL draft because of their size and durability — Wilson is 5-11 and 206 pounds, while Bridgewater is 6-2, 210.
But Wilson’s success as a game manager and his mobility have made him one of the most successful young quarterbacks in NFL history, and the Vikings might have found a similar QB in Bridgewater.
Still, Wilson has proved himself against tough competition. Bridgewater has yet to do that against a winning team.
• At last weekend’s TwinsFest, Torii Hunter, who has only played at Target Field as a visitor, was asked how difficult it is to play right field at the Twins ballpark. “It’s not as hard as Detroit, but I think you know I can play it,” the nine-time Gold Glove outfielder said. “I played here a lot. I don’t think it’s tough at all, because if it hits the top of the wall [the Kasota limestone overhang in right field], it hits the top of the wall. I can’t do anything about that. I only can worry about the things I can control. I wish I was Spider Man or Superman and really climb that wall, but nobody can do that. You have to play off the wall the right way, and know your angles, and I think I’ll be fine in right field here.”
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan talked about who will play center and left field this season with Hunter set in right: “Center field is wide open, left field I think you’ll see [Oswaldo] Arcia. He should get every chance to be our left fielder. He has the type of power we’re looking for. His defense needs to improve, but he’s a young kid and we’re looking for a little more contact out of him as well, but I would anticipate he’d be our left fielder. … The center field thing is going to be open between [Aaron] Hicks and Shane Robinson and [Eddie] Rosario and Jordan Schaefer. We have choices there to make.”
• Seahawks GM John Schneider, a St. Thomas graduate, has many of his top players under contract for the 2015 season, too, although the price tag for most of them figures to increase. In Russell Wilson’s case, he is expected to become one of the highest-paid players in the NFL after playing for less than $1 million per season in each of his first three seasons. Schneider told USA Today he is confident he can make his payroll work since Seattle’s projected salary cap of $116.7 million ranks just 24th in the NFL in 2015.