The Vikings are halfway through their 2020 schedule at 3-5. Every day leading up to Monday night’s game in Chicago, we’ll break down how each position has fared so far.
Running backs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah.
Fullback: C.J. Ham.
The same as always when it comes to Cook. If healthy, he’d be one of the best and most productive dual-threat backs in the league. But that’s always been a big if with Cook, who entered his fourth season having missed 21 games, including playoffs. Running back also was considered one of the deeper positions on the team with Mattison capable of starting for most teams, Boone an underrated, hard-running No. 3 back and Abdullah still a sneaky receiving threat at the occasional third-down back. Ham was considered a strong, technically sound fullback and a key part of the Gary Kubiak offense.
Where they are
Cook has been the best back in the league. Period. He’s the leading rusher with 858 yards on just 144 carries (6.0). The leading scorer with 13 touchdowns, 12 rushing. And, who knows, if he stays healthy and the once-1-5 Vikings make a surge into the playoffs, he will garner some MVP consideration. Despite missing a game and a half with a groin injury, Cook ranks second in combined yards with 1,031 in 6 ½ games. The Saints’ Alvin Kamara has 49 more yards in eight games. Mattison is averaging 4.7 yards per carry – topping last year’s 4.6 average – but has faded into the background with just 21 snaps during the team’s current two-game winning streak. With the Vikings realizing the need to ride their best player, Cook has had 56 touches for 478 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games. That includes the team’s first 200-yard rushing game since Adrian Peterson had one five years ago. Mattison has a rushing touchdown and Abdullah has a receiving touchdown. Boone has only three carries but is averaging 6.0 yards. And Ham has been his usual steady self as a key blocker in Kubiak’s offense.
Player to watch
Cook, of course. The eyes of every football fan alive is trained on the guy who is giving every ounce of himself while trying to live up to the five-year, $63 million deal he got on the eve of the regular season. He had 226 yards and four touchdowns on 32 touches at Green Bay. Then he had 252 yards and two touchdowns on 24 touches against Detroit. The next battle – at Chicago against one of the league’s best defenses – will be must-see TV, especially for old-timers who remember when this was a running back/defense league. If – there’s that word again – Cook stays healthy, the Vikings at least have a shot of reaching the playoffs after a 1-5 start.
41.7% — Cook leads the NFL in rushing first downs (48) and rushing touchdowns (12). That means 60 of his 144 carries – 41.7% — have moved the chains or reached the end zone. He also leads the NFL with 25 runs of at least 10 yards. And he’s done that in 6 ½ games. Next is Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt, who has 20 in eight games. Meanwhile, Derrick Henry is second in rushing first downs. He has 42 in 183 carries – 39 more than Cook.
At top of page: The Vikings celebrated a touchdown by Dalvin Cook against the Packers on Nov. 1 (Anthony Souffle photo)