For the first time in the past nine seasons, Vikings fans will no longer hear Vikings Radio celeb Paul Allen shout “AND ADRIAN PETERSON IS LOOOOOOOOSE!” The seven-time Pro Bowler will however be in US Bank Stadium on the opposing sideline with the New Orleans Saints come week one of the NFL regular season. The Vikings will be taking a different approach this year with a wide variety of backs.
“It’s going to be a good competition, it’s a good group. Coach Schurmer has been pushing us during OTA’s to come out and define us as a running back group and push each other to be better this year,” Jerick McKinnon said.
McKinnon tallied a career-high 539 yards on 159 carries for an average of 3.4 yards-per-carry in the seven games he started. He also set career-highs in rushing attempts with 159, rushing yards with 539, 43 receptions, 255 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. McKinnon sustained an undisclosed injury last Thursday at Training Camp, but it should be okay going forward.
“For me it’s year four, I still feel unproven and like I still have a lot to prove, I’m going to come out here and do my best every day. I feel like I haven’t reached where I want to be yet,” McKinnon said.
After letting Peterson and Matt Asiata go in free agency, the Vikings added Latavius Murray from the Oakland Raiders and Dalvin Cook in the NFL Draft during the offseason to try and improve their offensive backfield. The combination of the two will be a nice mix of youth and experience.
Cook, a Florida State alumni, was picked up in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings after the Vikings gave their number 48 pick and a fourth-round selection to the Cincinnati Bengals for the number 41 pick. Cook is garnering a lot of attention in his first year in the NFL with the injury of Murray and McKinnon early in training camp.
“No matter if those guys [McKinnon and Murray] are out there or not, it’s a chance for me to get better. If I go out there I want to get better no matter what. If those guys were out there it would be the same-I just want to get better,” Cook said.
The 2016 Orange Bowl MVP is excited to play with the Vikings and was already impressed by the team’s defense less than a week into Training Camp. As a Seminole, Cook was the top running back in the country with 1,765 rushing yards, 488 receiving yards (third on the team), and 20 touchdowns in the 2016 season. He also broke the 20-year-old FSU career rushing record in the game against Syracuse with 225 yards, including a 41-yard run.
“Our front is serious. We have Linval [Joseph] and we have Danielle [Hunter]. Our defense is good, period,” Cook said.
He has also impressed Offensive Coordinator Pat Schurmer during both the spring and training camp and will be a player with the potential to help the team both in the present and in the future.
“He really has retained a great deal from the spring and I think that is the most important piece. He did a really nice job in the spring and we anticipate that he will just continue to get better and better,” Schurmer said of Cook. “He tries to make the most of every rep he gets. You see him do a lot of things really well, and if he does make a mistake he is able to correct it and move on, and that’s another sign of a pro.”
Murray will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and has yet to practice with the Vikings as a result of the off-season ankle surgery. The spring signing totaled 12 rushing touchdowns last year, fifth in the NFL and was selected for the 2015 Pro Bowl. Previously on the Oakland Raiders, Murray became the first player in the NFL to gain at least 110 rushing yards in five or fewer carriers in the November 20 game against Kansas City.
“He’s a pro, he a veteran. He is very in tune with what we are doing mentally, he asks great questions and made some suggestions on how to teach it. So, he is right there mentally. For him, it’s just going to be a matter of getting his body back, in and around the ankle,” Schurmer said of Murray.
2015 was Murray’s best season with a career-high 266 carries for 1,066 yards and posted his first 1,000-yard season with six touchdowns.
Bishop Sankey is also a new addition to the Vikings that should be watched. Sankey joined the 2016 practice squad after being released from the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad in November.
Sankey was drafted 54th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans from the University of Washington. He started 12 games for a total of 199 rushes for 762 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He assisted the team with 32 receptions for 272 yards.