Too Many RBs?

The Vikings made a statement by taking RB Adrian Peterson -- the jewel of the 2007 draft running back crop -- with the seventh pick. While most of the questions about Peterson's role with the team center on playing time with 2006 starter Chester Taylor, it should be just as interesting to grasp the role that players like Mewelde Moore, Ciatrick Fason and Tony Richardson will have.

The Vikings head into minicamp later this week with some questions to be answered at several positions. Tops among them clearly is at quarterback, where Tarvaris Jackson will begin his starting career at quarterback looking for his chance to cement his job and no longer be the QB of the future, but the QB of the present.

The same can be said for defensive end, where Kenechi Udeze will face a challenge to his starting job; at linebacker, where Chad Greenway steps in and E.J. Henderson gets moved to the middle; at safety, where the team has as much depth as any position; at wide receiver, where 13 players will be vying for a handful of roster spots; and on the offensive line, where the right side continues to be a question mark that wasn't addressed in the draft or free agency.

But perhaps the position battle that should get the most attention – and rightfully so – will be at running back. The Vikings' running game has been a revolving door in recent years and, just when it seemed like the position was settled last year, another wrench was thrown into the mix with the drafting of Adrian Peterson.

Since 2003, there have been question marks abounding as to what the direction of the Vikings' running game would go. In that season, Moe Williams led the team with 745 yards on 174 carries. In 2004, Onterrio Smith led the team in rushing with 544 yards – followed by Daunte Culpepper with 406. None of those players is still with the team.

In 2005, Mewelde Moore led the team with 662 yards rushing. Last year, with the signing of Chester Taylor and guard Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings made it clear that they intended to do more rushing. They did, as Taylor set a franchise record for rushing attempts in a season, but he wore down late and there was speculation that he would have a difficult time handling the full-time running duties.

But, as the sun prepares to dawn on the 2007 season, what will be the state of the Vikings running game? Taylor returns for the second year of his current contract, but the Vikings made it clear by taking Peterson with the seventh overall selection that they expect him to be the primary ballcarrier – if not this year, in the near future. But the questions at running back get deeper than that.

What about Mewelde Moore? The team's leading rusher two years ago, third-down back and primary receiving threat among RBs the last two years, Moore had found himself a niche. But will that role remain the same if the Vikings are using both Taylor and Peterson in the backfield? Will both of them be two-down running backs? That doesn't seem overly likely.

What about Ciatrick Fason? A player the team was high on when they drafted him in 2005, he would be mired deep on the depth chart and would likely need a series of major injuries to see the light of day on game day. With a team looking to get as many playmakers on the field as possible, will Fason have a role other than a special teams player and will the Vikings keep four players that are pure halfbacks?

And what about the fullback situation? The Vikings signed Joey Goodspeed last year with hopes that he could be the type of West Coast Offense fullback that succeeds as blocker/receiver. Then Tony Richardson became available and the team jumped on him. Prior to Richardson going down with injuries, he had a role similar to the type of fullback production seen by players like Tom Rathman and William Henderson – who were valued receivers in the WCO scheme. With Peterson on board, what will the role of fullback be for the Vikings this year?

While concerns rightfully abound at several key positions, there hasn't been much talk about the running back spot aside from pondering how Peterson and Taylor will co-exist. With a limited number of roster spots available, one also needs to wonder what the future of players like Moore, Fason and Richardson will be. The Vikings made a big splash by drafting Peterson. Now it's time to see how the resulting ripples from that splash will play themselves out.

* As it currently stands, the Vikings will head into training camp with new additions Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice as starters with Troy Williamson pushing for his spot as a starter on the depth chart. Wade will likely enter training camp as the No. 1 receiver, with Williamson or Rice listed at No. 2. But, the Vikings may be going down the same path that Brad Childress saw so often with the Eagles – the "wide receiver by committee" approach.
* Former Viking Chris Liwienski is being listed as a starting guard on the depth chart for the Dolphins.

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