Seem illogical to think that Peterson’s production could go up as a 31-year-old running back in 2016 after leading the NFL in rushing as a 30-year-old in 2015? Maybe not when considering how much yardage head coach Mike Zimmer believes was left on the field.
“I know we ran the ball a lot, but we weren’t efficient in a lot of things we did. We’ve got to do all those things better,” Zimmer said. “That’s not just talking about the offensive line, it’s talking about the tight ends and the wide receivers. There has to be a sense of urgency coming in next fall.”
Peterson not only had more rushing yards than any other NFL back last year, but he also had more carries. For him, it never seems like enough.
However, there is another statistic in which he led the NFL: stuffs. That is a measure of the number of times a ball carrier is dropped for a loss. Peterson had 47 such carries, 11 more than any other back.
“Early in the year he tried to make home runs out of some plays, but a lot of times we missed guys and we didn’t block them or a guy came off the edge and we should have checked the play the other way,” Zimmer said. “There’s a lot of issues, but mostly it was not due to him.”
Despite having almost 40 more carries than any other back, Peterson wasn’t the top running back for runs of 20 yards or more. He was third with 10 of those while rookie Todd Gurley (11) and Doug Martin (14) had more.
The same held true in runs of 40 yards or more. Gurley led the league with five of those. Peterson and Martin were tied for second with four.
“I would like to get him more than some 1-yard runs. There was a lot of 1-yard runs,” Zimmer said. “They’ve got to be 3 and 4 and then hit a 10 or 12 or 20 or whatever. We had way too many 1-yard runs, way too many whiffs, way too many whiffs in pass protection. Missed assignments. Too much.”
Zimmer made no bones about his disappointment with the blocking, both in pass protection and in the run game, leading to change in offensive line coaches. For his part, Peterson admitted he needs to improve his ball security and wants to become a more versatile back, but there is no doubt that Peterson is still at the head of the line for where the offense will start in 2016.
If the Vikings didn’t trade him last offseason, they’re not going to trade him when he has a lesser price tag and is coming off a season in which he led the NFL in rushing despite a below-average offensive line.
Those looking for it to happen can send their wish tree to curb with long-since-castaway Christmas trees.
Despite the continued confidence in Peterson, Zimmer isn’t opposed to looking at other offenses for suggestions. Last year, quarterbacks coach Scott Turner visited University of Montana coach Bob Stitt for advice on some passing-game concepts.
This year, Zimmer hired Pat Shurmur, who brings experience in the West Coast offense and Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense. The Vikings will implement “maybe some” of Kelly’s offense.
The Vikings need to protect better, have Teddy Bridgewater throw the ball better and give him a better receiving option. But even with all that …
“We’re not going to have two-minute possessions on offense,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to try to possess the ball if we can.”
Which means Peterson will continue to be first focal point and those hoping 2016 would be the year to throw the offense on Bridgewater’s shoulders and passing arm are going to have to wait.