Adrian Peterson has been a once in a lifetime type of running back during his career the Minnesota Vikings. He has led the NFL in rushing yards three times (2008, 2012, 2015), won a league MVP award (2012), and is just three more scores away from becoming the ninth player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 career touchdowns.
But even with all the success that Peterson has had, some know that there are still plenty of aspects of his game that he could improve upon. One person that would agree with that statement is the running back’s own head coach, Mike Zimmer.
When asked on Thursday about Peterson’s struggles to produce when beginning a play in the shotgun formation, Zimmer described his running back’s aggressive style as possibly playing a factor in his inability to make plays when lining up next to the quarterback.
“It’s a little bit of his style. His style is to get the ball and go fast, and sometimes in the gun, you have to be a little bit more patient. You have to be a little bit more rounded. You’ve got to get your shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.“ – Mike Zimmer
The comments from Minnesota’s coach are the least bit surprising. Peterson is one of the most aggressive running backs to ever play in the history of the league.
But his unwillingness to let a play develop in front of him throughout his entire career has led Peterson to be almost one dimensional.
In 2015, the Vikings were well aware of his lack of production from the shotgun as they only ran the ball during 11 percent of the plays when lined up in the formation. Compared to the season before when Minnesota ran the ball on 22 percent of their shotgun plays while Peterson sat out all but one game of the year.
Despite having Peterson in the backfield for 2015, out of the shotgun the Vikings averaged less yards per carry (2.5) than they did in 2014 (3.8) with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata running the ball for a majority of the season.
It is unfortunate, but Minnesota running less plays from the shotgun with Peterson in the lineup has led to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seeing more pressure when he drops back to pass. Instead of Bridgewater being able to survey the defense before the play while lined up from the shotgun, he has to wait and process everything coming at him until after he snaps the ball from under center.
Year one of Peterson and Bridgewater playing together turned out okay, but it had a lot to do with the Vikings’ quarterback compromising the strengths of his game in order to meet Peterson’s needs.
Zimmer said Thursday that Minnesota’s star running back is, “working hard,” at getting better in the shotgun this year, but Peterson has yet to showcase his improvements on the field this preseason.
He has not touched the football in a preseason game since 2011 and that streak is likely to continue after today’s news that Peterson will not play in the team’s third preseason game this Sunday. The announcement also means that he is highly unlikely to play in the Vikings’ final preseason game as well.
Apparently that “itch” to play in the preseason Peterson had this past spring was cured during training camp.