Can the Vikings running game sprint out of the gate?
Through the first nine weeks of the 2018 season, the Vikings looked electric on offense and a lot of it had to do with the passing game.
After their bye week, however, Minnesota couldn’t move the ball as easily as teams decided to double team Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs while daring anyone else to step up. As we all know, nobody else was up for that challenge.
A lot of that blame fell on the shoulders of the passing game and former Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. While the lopsided reliance through the air is one of the factors that burned Minnesota down the stretch, a good chunk of the blame could also be thrown upon the running game, which wasn’t effective even when their number was called.
By now, you should know the drop off that the Vikings had on the ground a year ago. In 2018, Minnesota ranked 30th in rushing yards after ranking seventh in 2017. Their attempts also went down from third in 2017 to 27th last year.
This has to do a little bit with play calling, but also their 4.2 yards per carry mark (24th in the NFL), meaning they just didn’t run the ball well.
This past offseason, the Vikings made a major effort to fix this problem with their rushing attack. After drafting center Garrett Bradbury and signing guard Josh Kline, Minnesota also expects to have the efforts of a healthy Dalvin Cook in their backfield this year.
With Kevin Stefanski’s new offense having shades of Gary Kubiak all over it, the Vikings’ zone scheme is something that should benefit Cook, who reminded everyone what he can do when he ripped off an 85-yard touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals during the preseason.
As Minnesota enters the regular season, Cook may be the most important player on their offense. If he can get going against a Falcons defense that ranked 25th against the run last year, it will make everything easier on both sides of the ball as the Vikings could play with a lead. If not (or even worse, if he gets hurt), it could be a long season in Minnesota.