Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had different reasons for hiring different coaches on his staff.
Offensively, he liked Bill Musgrave's ideas on how to tailor an offense for the existing personnel and Frazier hired him as the coordinator. When it came to hiring an offensive line coach, Frazier liked Jeff Davidson's history as offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers, where he got Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to both be 1,000 yards rushers in 2009.
Frazier has consistently said he wants to have Adrian Peterson be the focus of the Vikings' 2011 offense, but he has also indicated an increased role for Toby Gerhart, the Vikings' second-round draft choice in 2010. So would there be a consideration for Peterson and Gerhart to be close in carries, like Stewart (221) and Williams (216) were with the Panthers when both were healthy in 2009?
"I don't know if that will ever happen because that would be taking Adrian off the field quite a bit more, so I don't see that happening," Frazier said. "Just get (Gerhart) involved and getting a little more carries, but you don't want to take away from A.P. getting his carries. You've got to be smart."
Without Chester Taylor in 2010, Gerhart was easily the Vikings' second-leading rusher. While Peterson had 283 carries for 1,298 yards, Gerhart had 81 attempts for 322 yards. But it wasn't until Nov. 28 against the Washington Redskins when Gerhart had more than five carries for the first time all season. That's when he rushed 22 times for 76 yards, and he had more than 10 carries in two of the next three games as well.
Frazier said the key for Peterson and Gerhart will rest on the offensive line ahead of them. With the line and running backs having new position coaches, there is likely to be a different philosophy in 2011.
"The most important thing for Jeff is just to get our offensive line to where it's the premier offensive line in the National Football League, and that's the way he'll approach it," Frazier said. "Our running backs coach, James Saxon, he'll figure out the rotation with our running backs. But we'll do a great job getting our offensive line prepared each week."
Peterson didn't lead the league in rushing in 2010 – he had 1,298 yards, more than 300 fewer yards than NFL leader Arian Foster of Houston – but Frazier (and others) still consider Peterson the best running back in the NFL. He finished sixth in rushing yards, but he had the top rushing average per carry (4.59 yards) among the top 10 backs.
Peterson finished ninth in attempts (283) among all running backs, sixth in yards and tied for fourth with 12 rushing touchdowns.
If Frazier doesn't want to take away from Peterson's workload but wants to increase Gerhart's opportunities, is there a chance both will be on the field at the same time with more two-back sets?
"I know we did it with Lorenzo (Booker) and Toby a few times, and maybe Lorenzo and Adrian at times, but that's something that possibly could happen for sure," Frazier said. "They both have different skills. They both are two halfbacks, but there are ways to get them both on the field."
So where does that leave the fullback position? Naufahu Tahi is scheduled to be a free agent and was brought in for Brad Childress' offense, including re-signing him last year as a restricted free agent. This year, it's unclear how much confidence the Vikings have in him, but Frazier did say the fullback position is still expected to be part of the team's offense in 2011.
"Just when I was talking with Bill about where I would like to see our offense going, we'd still like to be able to feature a fullback, as long as you have a guy you feel real good about," he said. "But you'd also like to be able to get your tight ends involved and let Jimmy (Kleinsasser) do some things in the backfield and even Visanthe (Shiancoe) maybe. There's a bunch of different scenarios that you could possibly go with, but it all depends on if we get our fullback re-signed."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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