For some college football analysts and analytical web sites, Dalvin Cook was the best running back in the 2017 NFL Draft.
It might turn out that way, but Cook didn’t show any braggadocios tendencies or me-first attitude as he started his time in a Minnesota Vikings jersey as the team kicked off its rookie minicamp on Friday.
In fact, Cook wouldn’t even say that earning a starting job over veteran Latavius Murray is on his priority list.
“That’s not my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to find my role, just come in and contribute to the team anywhere possible and help the team win. That’s my ultimate goal,” Cook said.
“I know about the whole running back room. I did my research. Me and Coach Kennedy [Polamalu], we sat down and talked about those guys individually. They’re great guys from what I’ve been hearing. They’re great football players. I’m just looking forward to learning from those guys and having a great experience in that running back room.”
Cook proved at Florida State that he has the ability to take over a game and break it wide open when given a crease to run. But he also realizes he has aspects of his game that need honing if he wants to be a reliable every-down back in the NFL.
After fumbling 14 times in his three years with the Seminoles, ball security is one of his top two priorities for improvement.
“It’s top of the list with that and pass protection,” he said. “That’s top of the list. So, whatever Coach Kennedy has to offer me I’m going to take it in, soak it in and I’m going to study all of the techniques.”
Cook isn’t the first running back with fumbling issues. In fact, one of the knocks on Adrian Peterson during his star-studded days with the Vikings was a tendency to become careless with the ball, especially in big moments.
The Vikings will look to correct that early with Cook.
“One of the things we talked about in the meeting, five points of pressure, making sure the ball is high and tight,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Tiki Barber had an issue with it a while back and corrected it. A lot of it is points of emphasis, making sure you’re doing it correctly, and understanding when you get into a crowd you’ve got to put two hands on the ball.”
The coaching staff will certainly emphasize that with Cook, but the attitude of the rookie is to take in the coaching and make sure he applies it.
“It’s just all about will. Every coach can give you different techniques on how to carry the ball and what to do with the football, but it’s all about you going out there and doing it,” Cook said. “It’s about taking the coaching and I’m willing to take the coaching in order to take that next step to taking care of the football. At this level, turning the football over is going to help you lose games. So, I’m not willing to jeopardize my team to lose games. I’m willing to take all of the coaching.”
It could be one of the key factors in Cook being a big part of the offense from the outset as the team looks to replace the production they relied upon from Peterson for the last decade.
Last year, with Peterson playing only three games because of injury, the Vikings finished dead last in the NFL in rushing yards and yards per carry. This offseason, the primary focus in acquiring offensive talent has centered on finding a reliable, more consistent running game.
Cook should have plenty of opportunities throughout the summer to earn the starting spot while Murray recovers from ankle surgery performed shortly after the Vikings signed him. For now, the expectation is that Murray will be ready for the start of training camp, and he and Cook will battle for the starting spot.
“It’ll always be an open competition, but with the veteran guys we have, we’ve been doing Phase II. And he hasn’t been working yet, Latavius hasn’t,” Zimmer said. “So, we’ve got a long, long way to go before we make any determinations on any of that.”
While Cook’s fumbling in college has to be corrected in the NFL, one intriguing aspect to his game is his elusiveness. No running back created more missed tackles than Murray (92 of them).
“That’s all about watching film, knowing your opponents and coming into the game doing everything to win football games. That’s what I’m going to do while I’m here,” he said. “Like I said, I’m going to work as hard as I can to help my team win football games.”