Mistake No. 3
Running it back with the running game
The Vikings made it a priority to overhaul their running game last offseason, but it didn’t play out on the field.
Minnesota ranked 29th with 91.4 rushing yards per game last season, and their starting running back, Alexander Mattison, didn’t score a rushing touchdown.
The focal point of the passing game could make it easy for O’Connell to run back the same backfield next season, but it won’t mean anything unless the Vikings make a change this offseason.
Mattison proved that he shouldn’t be a starter after signing a two-year deal last offseason, but his contract may make it difficult to move on.
With a $4.6 million cap hit for next season, Minnesota could place their chips on Mattison to rebound or just keep him as a back who knows the system and hope for better luck next year.
This strategy would be irresponsible, however, unless they hope for someone to take over.
Ty Chandler is the current favor to enter 2024 as the starter but his issues in pass protection and creating yards after contact may cap him as a change-of-pace option.
Cam Akers could also be in the mix after receiving glowing reviews after he was traded from the Los Angeles Rams, but he can’t be relied upon after suffering a torn Achilles for the second time in his career last October.
There’s also the issue of O’Connell’s scheme, which not only ranked 28th with 393 rushing attempts but also tied for 21st with just four yards per carry.
O’Connell’s mentor, Sean McVay, had the same issues in Los Angeles, ranking 28th with 97.7 rushing yards per game and 28th with 4.0 yards per carry last season, but he switched from a zone-based scheme to a gap-based scheme this season.
The results spoke for themselves, as the Rams ranked 11th with 120.3 rushing yards per game and 11th with 4.3 yards per attempt this season.
O’Connell didn’t hint at a scheme change during his end-of-season press conference, but a move would make sense.
With running backs such as Braelon Allen, Audric Estime, and MarShawn Lloyd available in next year’s draft, the Vikings could also upgrade their personnel without shelling out assets.
The running game’s importance has been devalued in recent years, but O’Connell and Minnesota would be foolish to run it back next season.