Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, and later suspended, after the first week of the 2014 season. That left the bulk of the running back duties in the hands of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
This season Peterson is back, which means the amount of carries that Asiata and McKinnon get should drastically decrease, barring any injuries to Peterson. McKinnon is still likely to be used as a change-of-pace back that can come out of the backfield as a receiver, much like how Darren Sproles was used in Norv Turner’s offense as a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. But where does that leave Asiata?
He is a powerful runner that would be good in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but Peterson is a powerful runner as well, and if the Vikings need a yard or two they will likely lean on him over Asiata.
“No, not really,” Asiata said when asked if the coaches have discussed his role. “I’m just coming to work trying to stay blessed and get my opportunities when they come.”
Even though he may struggle to see the field on the offensive side of the ball, there is no animosity on his part. He understands that Peterson is one of the best, if not the best, running back in the league and he knows Peterson will get a majority of the carries.
“I respect Adrian so much,” Asiata said. “He’s the man over here and as a running back group we got to be ready to come in whenever he needs help and for the running back group we’re pretty close.
“Norv loves Adrian, we all love Adrian. He’s going to get most of the snaps and we’re going to be there as a team and try to back him up on it.”
Asiata knows that the best thing that he can do right now is work as hard as he can to improve his game and be ready for whenever his number gets called. There is still a lot that he needs to improve on and this offseason he has been working hard to do just that.
“Offseason is trying to get explosive,” he said. “Trying to get faster, trying to read the defense a lot better this year since I got the little flow from last year. Just trying to read defenses this year and just try my best.”
The running back said that the best way to learn how to read a defense is to get out and learn on the field while playing, either in games or in practices. But watching film is also a good way to learn, so he has been in the film room a little extra this offseason getting as much work in as he can.
With the team’s third preseason game coming up and Peterson not expected to take any snaps, Asiata should continue to get a lot of carries. He has been happy with his performances so far, but he knows there is always room for improvement.
“There’s always room to get better,” he said. “I’m just trying to go out there and do the best I can when I get the opportunities and just try to come out with the win with the team.
“My goal is to be mentally locked in. Technique, assignments, it’s all got to be crisp.”
Asiata trying to be crisp with uncertain role
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