Sunday slant: Peterson is pretty good, too

Vikings fans love to worry, and the free-agent loss of Chester Taylor is giving them cause to fret. After looking at several statistical categories on Taylor, Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson, we have one conclusion: That Peterson kid is pretty good, too. Using "All Day" all game like the top backs of 2010 would be interesting.

The only question I've heard more in the past month than "Will Brett Favre return?" is this: "How much will the Vikings miss Chester Taylor?"

Most people fear they will miss him a lot. Their fears might be right … in some respects. Taylor was a true professional the way he handled his demotion into a backup role once Adrian Peterson's greatness became obvious – which we figure was about the first regular-season game he played with the Vikings.

Taylor came to Minnesota to be a starter after toiling behind another great running back, Jamal Lewis in Baltimore, but when that role was taken away from him after a workhorse 2006 season, he didn't take his complaints public and cause a rift. While he handled the demotion with aplomb, he also isn't a vocal guy who was in the ear of Peterson and offering a lot of advice, so that facet of his value may be overvalued by fans looking for a reason to fret the 2010 season six months before it starts.

So can the Vikings withstand the loss of Taylor?

Here are a few things to keep in mind: First, that Peterson guy is pretty good and, second, Taylor was only on the field 33.7 percent of the time last year, according to a league source. The second statistic also reveals that while the Vikings had 40 more offensive plays in 2009 than they did in 2008, Taylor was on the field 10 fewer times.

There's little question that Taylor was good at his role, that being mainly a third-down back. He was adept at turning third downs into first downs, leading all running backs the last two seasons in third-down receptions (26 last year).

He also had a lot of opportunities, and the Vikings could be looking for Peterson to become more involved in the passing game. For good reason.

While Taylor had success as the third-down back, a review of the regular-season statistics shows that Peterson actually had a little more success when catching passes. Taylor caught 44 passes for an 8.8-yard average; Peterson caught 43 passes for a 10.1-yard average. What helped sway the average in Peterson's favor was a 63-yard pass play, while Taylor's longest reception of the season went for 33 yards.

Additionally, the loss of Taylor as a third-down back could open things up for Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin, who was sixth in the NFC in third-down receptions with 24, two behind Taylor's pace. Harvin averaged 13.8 yards on his third-down receptions with a long of only 31 yards.

Also worth noting is that while Taylor was the leading back catching third-down passes, Peterson was the top back in the NFC for converting third-and-1 situations with more than 10 attempts. In 18 attempts, Peterson converted 14 of those, 77.8 percent, into first downs.

Peterson is sometimes referred to as having a down season in 2009, but the reality is that he was still one of the top backs in the league – although he wasn't able to defend his 2008 rushing title.

Chris Johnson led the league in 2009 with 358 carries and Steven Jackson led the NFC with 324 rushes. Peterson had 314 rushes and averaged 4.4 yards. If he had 44 more rushes at that average, equaling Johnson's carries, Peterson would have ended with 1,577 yards, placing him second in the league.

For a player nicknamed "All Day," Peterson was more part-time when compared to the top three rushers in the league. That might be why fans got so enamored with the possibility of LaDainian Tomlinson landing in Minnesota.

When it comes to scoring touchdowns, something that was a purported strength of Tomlinson, Peterson was no slouch. The Vikings running back led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns, three more than his nearest competitor, Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville. In fact, Peterson led the league in scoring among non-kickers with 108 points.

No doubt that helped the Vikings become the second-best team in the NFC for red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 62.3 percent of their chances inside the 20-yard line.

Some of the biggest slights on Peterson have to do with his blocking and fumbles. On the first category, the website rates Peterson as a better blocker than Chester Taylor last year, and both of them far better than LaDainian Tomlinson.

As for the second knock against him, there is little defending Peterson's tendency to swing the ball away from his body and leading the league in fumbles among running backs with seven.

There are a couple of interesting points about that in reviewing league statistics. Despite Peterson's problems, the Vikings as a team tied for the fewest fumbles in the NFC with 19. They lost 11 of them.

And now that Taylor is going from Minnesota to Chicago, he is going from backing up the league's leading fumbler among running backs to the second-most fumble-prone running back in 2009 – Matt Forte, who had six.

So what does all this hyper-analysis of Peterson vs. Taylor vs. Tomlinson mean?

From this view, it looks like Tomlinson could be the T.J. Houshmandazeh of 2009 – the player that got away from the Vikings in free agency and it turns out to be a good thing for the team. And, while Taylor certainly played a valuable role for the Minnesota, his absence seems to already be making the hearts of fans grow fonder without seeing what a more experienced and well-rounded Adrian Peterson can do, or what a draft pick or Albert Young can accomplish in a complementary, albeit it more minor, role.

Peterson always preaches patience to himself when it comes to waiting for his blocking to develop. Vikings fans might have to have that same talk with themselves before drawing conclusions about team's backfield for 2010. More likely, however, they will continue to be bothered by a six-month itch.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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