One of the understandable concerns when the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with Adrian Peterson was that, after a decade of having the most potent running game in the NFC North, the Vikings were going to take a step backward.
Much in the same way teams are concerned when they replace a Hall of Fame quarterback – a process that rarely goes smoothly or without a few bumps in the road – it would appear the Vikings not only have survived the transition from Peterson, they may be able to return as the division’s most dominant run game.
A case can be made that, as things currently stand, the Bears may have the most consistent running game in the division. With the emergence of big back Jordan Howard last year, Chicago has the talent needed to hold up its end of the running game and depth with former starter Jeremy Langford, veteran backups Ka’Deem Carey and Benny Cunningham, and rookie Tarik Cohen.
It goes downhill from there. The Lions have struggled to have any consistency at running back and they did little to address that problem in the offseason. They’re returning essentially the same cast of characters in Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Mike James and Dwayne Washington. Abdullah, like former Lion Jahvid Best, has had difficulty staying healthy, Riddick is more a receiver than a runner and Zenner is a glorified fullback. The Lions aren’t devoid of talent at the position, but the same concerns they had in 2016 remains in 2017. That could be one reason they are reportedly taking a look at former Vikings running back Matt Asiata later this month.
Green Bay is in a complete meltdown mode with their running backs in the post-Eddie Lacy era. When injuries hit at running back, they converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. While some will contend that Montgomery did a solid job at running back, if you take out one game against Chicago where the Bears defense forgot how to tackle, Montgomery was pretty pedestrian and looked more like a fish out of water than a natural running back.
What has changed this season with free agency and the draft behind them? Montgomery is joined by five rookies – Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Kalif Phillips and William Stanback. Given that group, fullback Aaron Ripkowski has to be considered in play for a significant role in the running game and could make Aaron Rodgers even more one-dimensional than he was forced to be last season.
Even with unprecedented roster turnover in the running back room over the last five months, the Vikings still have the most dangerous and versatile running game in the division. Jerick McKinnon, who was the primary starter two of the last three seasons, returns as the incumbent. Free agent signee Latavius Murray brings between-the-tackles toughness that is matched only by Howard among NFC North running backs. The wild card is rookie Dalvin Cook, who gives Minnesota arguably the best take-it-the-distance threat in the division.
There were plenty of reasons for concern when the Vikings opted out of Peterson’s deal and left uncertainty in the Minnesota running game for the first time in a decade. But, as the dust has settled, it could be argued the Vikings still have the most talented group of running backs in the NFC North despite overhauling the position on the fly.
- Michael Floyd has made the choice of wearing No. 18 for the Vikings, a number made famous by Sidney Rice during the time he played wide receiver for the Vikings.
- After signing with the Vikings, Floyd had a conversation with Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Like Floyd, Carter was released by the team that invested a high draft pick in him (Philadelphia) due to off-field problems with drugs and alcohol. Not only was Carter able to reclaim his career, but he became one of the game’s most dominant wide receivers ever.
- As reported yesterday, the new Vikings headquarters had its topping-off ceremony for the placement of the last piece of structural steel on the facility. The team and construction partners are planning a media event next Wednesday at the new complex and what the expansive project will look like when it is completed – both the training facility and the surrounding businesses that are going to be part of the project.
- The Vikings apparently aren’t bringing former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong in for organized team activities. Armstrong attended last weekend’s rookie minicamp and said the Vikings planned on signing him as a safety prospect. However, Thursday night Armstrong tweeted he won’t be coming, saying, “Unfortunately, I got the call that they couldn’t make a second cut for me!!! Just want to say thank you to the @Vikings for the chance!!”