Vikings training camp ramps up this week with the start of an eight-day strength and conditioning program that features some on-field work. We'll preview each position until practices are scheduled to begin Aug. 12. Today: running backs.

on the roster

RB Dalvin Cook; RB Alexander Mattison; RB Ameer Abdullah; RB Mike Boone; RB Tony Brooks-James; FB C.J. Ham; FB Jake Bargas.


The offense begins with Cook, hence Dalvin's desire to be paid commensurately and sooner, not later. Mattison is one of the league's better backups, but the offense isn't the same when Cook's many skills aren't firing full blast. Hence, the Vikings' dilemma when it comes to the age-old question of how to compensate even an elite running back. After missing 17 of 32 games his first two seasons, Cook played in a career-high 14 games last season, including the regular-season finale, when all the starters were rested. Cook was at his showroom best in Week 10 when the Vikings won at Dallas in prime time. He had 33 touches for 183 yards and a touchdown. Then injuries interceded, limiting him to an average of 15 touches for 60 yards in the last four regular-season games. Not good, but Cook's camp would point to what happened next. Healthy again, Cook had 31 touches for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the stunning playoff win at New Orleans. Mattison is a trustworthy backup but not the receiver Cook is. Mattison averaged 4.6 yards on 100 carries. Cook averaged 4.5 on 250 carries. The underrated Boone averaged 5.6 on 49 carries. And Abdullah averaged 5.0 on 23 carries. The Vikings have a well-rounded one in Ham, which is why they didn't blink in giving him a three-year, $12 million extension this offseason.

top competition

Cook, when healthy, is one of the best backs in the league, if not the best. But Mattison, a bigger back with 22-year-old legs, could get more touches as the Vikings strive to keep Cook fresher longer. The only question is whether the Vikings decide to keep four running backs again this season.

player to watch

Cook. If he doesn't get his big payday, how will he react to the snub? If he does get his big payday, will he stay healthy and hungry enough to prove that it was money well spent?

notable number

154 Cook's career high for rushing yards — on only 20 carries (7.7) — came in Week 2 at Green Bay last year. His 191 yards from scrimmage ranks No. 2 in his career. The Vikings play host to the Packers in the season opener.