The 2017 Minnesota Vikings are looking to improve in a lot of areas and nowhere is the need greater than the running game. Whether you choose to assign blame to the running backs, the revolving door on offensive line or both, the Vikings had one of the worst rushing seasons in franchise history last year.
Vikings running backs ran 342 times for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns – a brutal rushing average of 3.15 yards a carry. If for no other reason, it makes sense why the Vikings invested the majority of their outside free-agent money on tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, signed running back Latavius Murray and used their first two draft picks on RB Dalvin Cook and offensive lineman Pat Elflein.
To look at the year-end numbers only tells part of the story as to why the Vikings so consistently struggled on offense – in wins and losses. But, to see it on a weekly basis is even more troubling. This is what it looked like.
Week 1 at Tennessee – Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon: 24 carries, 50 yards, no touchdowns, 2.1 yards a carry.
Week 2 vs. Green Bay – Peterson, Asiata, McKinnon: 20-35-0-1.8
Week 3 at Carolina – McKinnon, Asiata: 22-60-0-2.7
Week 4 vs. New York Giants – McKinnon, Asiata: 24-91-2-3.8
Week 5 vs. Houston – McKinnon, Asiata: 34-91-1-2.7
Week 7 at Philadelphia – Asiata, McKinnon, Ronnie Hillman: 24-92-0-3.8
Week 8 at Chicago – Asiata, Hillman: 18-59-0-3.3
Week 9 vs. Detroit – Asiata, McKinnon, Hillman: 23-65-0-2.8
Week 10 at Washington – Asiata, McKinnon, Hillman: 19-31-1-1.6
Week 11 vs. Arizona – McKinnon, Asiata, Hillman: 23-73-1-3.2
Week 12 at Detroit – McKinnon, Asiata: 14-58-1-4.1
Week 13 vs. Dallas – McKinnon, Asiata: 15-71-0-4.7
Week 14 at Jacksonville – McKinnon, Asiata: 25-68-1-2.7
Week 15 vs. Indianapolis – Peterson, McKinnon, Asiata: 9-34-0-3.8
Week 16 at Green Bay – McKinnon, Asiata: 16-84-0-5.3
Week 17 vs. Chicago – McKinnon, Asiata: 24-103-1-4.3
The numbers collectively were brutal, but, when you look at it from the week-to-week numbers (the numbers by which games are played, not full seasons), they were even worse.
Of the top three running backs at any given time during the season, the Vikings had just one game in which they ran for 100 yards as a team. They had just five games with more than 75 rushing yards, seven games with 60 or fewer yards and four games with 50 yards or fewer.
Even worse was the average per carry by Vikings running backs. The Vikings had just one game in which they averaged five yards and a carry and had 12 games in which they averaged less than four yards a carry. Making things even more difficult was that they averaged 2.8 yards a game or less in seven of 16 games.
When the Vikings signed Murray in free agency and made a point to move up to assure that they would land Cook, they were looking at many of the same numbers shown here. If you’re going to win in the NFL with any consistency, teams have to run the ball. The Vikings didn’t do it in 2016 and the results were obvious. If they’re going to rebound in 2017, the running game will have to improve because, realistically, it can’t get any worse than it was last season.