Mike Zimmer said he wanted to see Dalvin Cook get tackled a couple of times on Saturday. Zimmer’s still waiting.
Cook, the Vikings’ star running back, took two handoffs on Saturday in the Vikings’ preseason game against Arizona at U.S. Bank Stadium. He was tackled once.
After a 3-yard run up the middle on his first carry of the year, Cook took a handoff to the left on the next play. What did he see? “Touchdown,” he said.
Cook spied window-filtered daylight to his right, veered through a hole, sped away from the pack and scored. Then he handed the ball to center Garrett Bradbury, who looked at it as if it were kale before handing it to tackle Rashod Hill, who spiked it as if it were kale.
That one play, an 85-yard touchdown run in the Vikings’ 20-9 victory, coalesced all that can be good about the NFL — a superior athlete making a spectacular play imbued with teamwork and even humor.
“The guys are giving me a lot of mess for that spike,” Hill said. “The O-line, guys I used to play with — guys from the Houston Texans calling me, telling me, ‘That was …”
Hill finished the sentence, then said, “Sorry about the language. But what was crazy about it was me and Dalvin were talking about that right before we went on the field. He said, ‘Give me a little inch, and I’ll be good to go.’ ”
This is why the Vikings’ offense could be fascinating this season. A year after giving quarterback Kirk Cousins what at the time was the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history, the Vikings hope to lessen Cousins’ burden by better using Cook.
The team brought in highly regarded offensive line coach Rick Dennison, drafted Bradbury, signed guard Josh Kline, and added Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach and offensive adviser.
Kubiak won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Here’s the intriguing part: Manning had the second-worst season of his career, behind only his rookie year, and the Broncos won with defense and their running game.
Cook could be spectacular in this offense if — and shouldn’t we say this about every NFL player, every season? — he stays healthy.
As flashy as Cook has been, he’s played in 15 NFL games in two seasons and has yet to reach the career 1,000-yard rushing mark, even though he has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry.
He’s only 23 and is the opposite of frail. He could make all of the difference for a coach, in Zimmer, who wants to see his team run the ball more often and more effectively while increasing its time of possession.
So, maybe Cook messed up, maybe scoring from 85 yards out didn’t give the defense enough time to rest, but no one was complaining. “A very special run,” Cousins said. “Great to see him pull away from everybody.”
What did Cousins see? “Great cut to get the run backside,” he said. “Well-blocked, well-executed. It certainly was a bright spot.
“It was a run meant to start left. He makes a cut to get back to the right. Someone got out of their gap, clearly, and he made them pay. Once you get to the second and third level, it’s a one-man show. To get to the second level, it takes 10 other guys.”
If there was a bright moment that mattered in all of August, it may have been Cook looking like one of the league’s best backs on a simple handoff on Saturday.
“I’m always confident,” Cook said. “That’s just me, man. I feel like if I get on the second level, that’s my job, to change the scoreboard. As a running back, you only get into the secondary so many times, so you have to take advantage of those moments.”
If this season goes as planned (not a possibility usually considered by Vikings fans), a handful of offensive linemen will get a chance to flub a spike after a Cook touchdown run.