While Dalvin Cook has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL, he's only eighth in the league in carries, having averaged a modest 18.4 per game through five weeks.
As the Vikings try to get Cook through a full season healthy for the first time in his career, their efforts to reduce his workload have been helped by their comfort with rookie Alexander Mattison, who's gained 189 yards on 34 carries this season.
"Myself and I think [running backs coach] Kennedy Polamalu certainly has a trust in that kid," offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. "He goes out there and he performs. There's not much of a drop off from [number] one to two, which is a really good thing for us, and we're looking to get him some work. He provides a similar but different running style than Dalvin, so I think that's always good when you're attacking a defense to give them a slightly different look. But he's a young player that I think is only going to get better, and I applaud his effort and how he prepares."
The third-round pick has gained 113 of his yards on 19 fourth-quarter attempts, allowing the Vikings to salt away their three wins while giving Cook a break.
"We talk as a staff during the week and obviously on game day, but we have a plan and we have a contingency plan and then, ultimately, we have a number that we're looking for both of those guys," Stefanski said. "But as you know during the series, Dalvin rips one off and he needs a blow, so very quickly Alexander jumps in there and we don't really change what we're doing or change our mind-set. That's really all Coach Polamalu, who I think does an outstanding job managing that."
Kline, Gedeon out
The Vikings will be without guard Josh Kline and linebacker Ben Gedeon on Sunday against the Eagles, because of injuries that kept both players out of practice all week.
Kline, who missed the Vikings' game against the Bears because of a concussion, will sit out this Sunday because of a foot injury, forcing Dakota Dozier into the lineup for his third start of the season (two at right guard, one at left guard). Against a veteran Eagles line that contributes to the NFL's top-ranked run defense, the loss of Kline adds another challenge for a Vikings offensive front that will need to be at its best on Sunday.
"This team is a team that's going to come and attack you defensively," coach Mike Zimmer said. "They're not going to sit back and catch. So we're going to have to come off the ball with authority in order to neutralize that."
Gedeon will be out with a concussion on Sunday, putting Eric Wilson in line for more work in the Vikings' base defense.
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers is also questionable with hamstring and wrist injuries.
Thielen returns to practice
Wide receiver Adam Thielen was back at practice on Friday, after an illness caused him to miss a rare practice on Thursday.
"The whole house kind of got something," Thielen said. "It was a tough couple days, but I'm here now, so it's all good."
Thielen had seven catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' Week 5 win over the Eagles last season. Asked if he'll be 100% for Sunday's game, Thielen said, "I hope so."