Coaches Q&A, Part II: Dalton Talks Backups

Besides the three-man rotation at the top of the depth chart, the Vikings still have Ciatrick Fason and Adimchinobe Echemandu. Running backs coach Dean Dalton talks about what he has seen from them, if he has talked to Onterrio Smith and what the Vikings thought of a free-agent possibility this past offseason.

Dean Dalton is in his seventh season in Minnesota, his fourth as running backs coach, after spending his first three seasons with the Vikings working primarily on the offensive side of the ball alongside Mike Tice on the offensive line.

Last season, Dalton oversaw a running backs corps that had four different starters. The Vikings set an NFL record for consecutive games with a team rushing average of more than 4.0 yards per carry with 19. The previous NFL record was 14 straight games held by the 1975-76 Pittsburgh Steelers featuring Franco Harris and the 1964-65 Cleveland Browns featuring Jim Brown.

In 2003, Dalton helped the offense to achieving their first NFL No. 1 ranking in team history. The Vikings finished second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL in rushing.

Prior to joining the Vikings in 1999, Dalton spent four years as the managing editor of War Room Publications and the president of The Red Zone Interactive.

Dalton also worked as the Dean of Students and Director of Athletics for the Delavan-Darien School District in Delevan, Wis., from 1996-98. He was the athletics director, administrator and head football coach for St. Michael's Academy in Austin, Texas, from 1995-96.

Dalton last coached collegiately at Purdue, as receivers coach (1990). He coached running backs at Texas Southern (1988-89), wide receivers at Wisconsin (1986-87), and defensive backs and running backs at Western Illinois (1984-85). Dalton played college football for Air Force Academy in 1981-82 and for Western Illinois in 1983-84.

Q: What have you seen from Ciatrick Fason in the few months he has been a Viking?

Ciatrick is a football player. He is a quiet kid. As I'm getting to know him and his personality, I didn't know if he was getting what I was teaching. Everyone learns differently and I teach every concept four or five ways. But each way one guy finally sinks in and absorbs it. With him it took me longer to figure him out because he's so quiet. He sits there, takes it in and learns quickly.

Q: What have you seen from Fason on the field?

He hasn't played as much football as the other guys, but the football he has played is at a very high level. He showed us in preseason that he's going to be a great contributor. As he picks things up and matures, as he gets his game more complete, he will be a tremendous running back.

Q: Have you heard from or communicated with Onterrio Smith?

Obviously our focus is on each game, each week. On a personal level you want to communicate with your guys, even former players and past players. But he's a little bit out of sight, out of mind. I've left him a message or two hoping he's doing well.

Q: What does Adimchinobe Echemandu need to do on the practice squad?

I call him Joe because Joseph is his middle name. He is a very bright young man, he got his masters at Cal-Berkley. I worked him out two years ago and really liked him a lot. When he came available I was very encouraged and wanted to see how he was doing and see if he had progressed like I thought he might. He picked up the offense really quickly. He's a fine guy to have around. He's on his own program but he's a complete team player and will do whatever we ask him to do.

Q: Was it a tough decision on cut-down day, choosing between Adimchinobe and Butchie Wallace?

I would say that he earned his spot. He bumped out (Wallace), who had done a great job and done everything we asked him to do.

Q: How serious in the offseason did the Vikings look at making a deal for Travis Henry?

We look at everybody. We try to keep a pulse on everyone in the NFL and you're always looking to improve your team and your roster. You look to find anyone who comes available to make your roster better, whether it's on the front end as a starter or the back end on the depth chart. How close was that to ever happening? Not. But was he evaluated, analyzed and discussed? Absolutely. All positions are. We look at every player in the league. Our personnel department does a great job keeping us current … and we follow all the players. Travis Henry was just another example.

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