Turner believes that when it comes to catching the ball, Peterson is catching on.
“One of the guys that I think has improved a great deal – you’re talking about developing players – is Adrian Peterson. He’s taken on himself to do some things a little different. I think it’s going to pay off for him,” Turner said.
Turner made a point that his offense isn’t about a certain scheme as much as it is about using players properly. The coordinator came to Minnesota this year with a reputation for getting his running backs involved in the passing game, and that’s been one of the mantras for Peterson this offseason.
Turner called Peterson the best player on the Vikings, for good reason, but he also believes there are different runs that will play to Peterson’s strengths while also working to hone his pass-catching skills.
“There’s a lot more runs out of the gun. That’s different. I really didn’t run the ball out of the gun a lot last year,” Peterson said. “Even in single back or with the fullback in front of me, we have some different runs that we’re going to be able to (implement) when the season starts.”
Turner has been impressed with Peterson’s ability to get comfortable with the new plays and timing of them and believes he will be able to perform in the regular season without needing any preseason action.
“I think he’s really zeroed in and focused in on what we’re trying to do. We’ve added some different runs that are a little different in terms of his style. He’s taken to them and I think he’s getting very comfortable with them,” Turner said. “And then obviously some of the things we are doing with him in the passing game, he’s worked real hard at not only catching the ball. Part of it is getting in the right position to catch it. He’s got a better understanding now than I think he’s had that if you do these things right in terms of how you run the route, how you release, where you end for the play, then it’s a lot easier catch than if you do it otherwise. I think the quarterbacks and he have worked hard at getting on the same page and understanding what we’re trying to do.”
That’s good news for an offense that finished 13th overall last year – eighth running the ball with Peterson as the workhorse and 23rd in the passing game. Last year, Peterson had only 29 catches. His career high is 43 from 2009 when he had Brett Favre as his quarterback.
Peterson said he’s been working on different techniques being used on different routes – lining up wide, when to chip before releasing on a route and setting up defenders. It’s all an effort to get the ball in Peterson’s hands in a variety of ways.
“I think it should start to build around your best player,” Turner said.
“He’s the best running back in football and this still is a game of players and not about schemes. You’ve got a guy in there who’s hard to tackle and is an explosive runner and obviously has great vision and all the things he brings. He’s going to change it dramatically.”
Part of the reason Turner wants to get Peterson the ball in the passing game is to have him work in the open field with the ball in his hands more often. As the theory goes, more space equals a better chance for an explosive play.
But Turner doesn’t have a set, ideal number of touches per game he wants for Peterson. He referenced a time in Miami when Ricky Williams carried the ball 42 times for 153 yards (in a 17-7 win the week before the Dolphins’ bye) or Emmitt Smith carrying the ball 33 times and getting six catches in Dallas. Both times Turner was the offensive coordinator for those running backs.
Turner’s message was he will do what it takes to win a game, but he doesn’t want Peterson approaching 400 carries for the season. That would happen if he averaged 25 carries a game.
“Adrian is going to be a big part of what we do and we’re going to be smart in how we utilize him,” Turner said.
“I think he’s been really good. One of the things – people trying to evaluate our tape and not knowing what we’re doing, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Turner said. “We’re evaluating, we’re finding out what we are as a football team, what our guys can do and then when we get in games we have a better understanding of how we have to game plan. When you’re on the road in a noisy environment against that player he played against the other night (Tamba Hali), that’s a challenge. We didn’t give him any help on purpose. One of the plays that we got pressure was not a good play call. We didn’t get a good combination route on so we ended up holding the ball too long.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.