Vikings Employing Dalvin Cook in Variety of Ways

It had been some time since an individual Minnesota Vikings player rushed for over 100 yards in a game, a feat that many fans had become accustom to during the Adrian Peterson era. Rookie second-round pick Dalvin Cook finally surpassed the plateau during Minnesota’s victory over New Orleans this past Monday, becoming the first Viking to do so since Peterson totaled 104 yards against the New York Giants back in Week 16 of the 2015 campaign.

Following a season in which the team finished dead last in the league in both total rushing yards (1,205) and yards per rush attempt (3.2), general manager Rick Spielman put notable effort into revamping both Minnesota’s offensive line as well as its backfield this past offseason. The Vikings have made it abundantly clear that they intend to run the ball much more effectively in 2017, and following a strong effort on the ground against the Saints, all signs point toward them making good on this objective.

Cook, who finished his NFL debut against New Orleans with 22 carries for 127 yards, figures to be a significant piece of this puzzle, as Minnesota made it clear on Monday night that it intends to utilize the talent of its young rookie both frequently and in a variety of different ways.

The following table offers information on each individual rushing attempt Cook recorded against the Saints during Week 1:

QuarterTime StampFormationPersonnelDown & DistanceInside/OutsideAttemptYards
1st7:37Singleback212nd & 6InsideHandoff1
1st5:44Singleback112nd & 4OutsideToss-1
1st4:36Singleback111st & 10InsideHandoff-1
1st2:32Singleback111st & 10InsideHandoff2
Quarter Totals----41
2nd14:45Shotgun111st & 10OutsideHandoff6
2nd14:19Singleback112nd & 4InsideHandoff0
2nd1:43Shotgun111st & 10InsideHandoff5
2nd1:27Singleback213rd & 1InsideHandoff10
Quarter Totals-----421
3rd14:52Pistol211st & 10OutsideHandoff7
3rd14:06Singleback111st & 10OutsideToss0
3rd13:23Pistol212nd & 10OutsideHandoff10
3rd2:34Pistol212nd & 10InsideHandoff1
3rd1:06Singleback211st & 10InsideHandoff3
3rd0:37I-Form121st & 10InsideHandoff5
Quarter Totals-----626
4th15:00Shotgun112nd & 5OutsideHandoff32
4th14:18Singleback211st & 10InsideHandoff4
4th7:49Shotgun111st & 10OutsideHandoff4
4th6:25Singleback211st & 10InsideHandoff3
4th4:59Singleback211st & 10InsideHandoff0
4th1:55I-Form / Offset211st & 10OutsideToss2
4th1:47Singleback212nd & 8InsideHandoff1
4th1:42Shotgun113rd & 7OutsideHandoff33
Quarter Totals----879
Game Totals----22127

His rushing attempts came primarily out of the singleback formation (12), but Pat Shurmur also called for the rookie to receive a handful of carries out of both the shotgun (5) and pistol (3) formations as well. Minnesota called for a balanced variation between inside (13) and outside (9) rush attempts while calling the rookie running back’s number more frequently as the game progressed.

1st Quarter410.250002
2nd Quarter4215.253 (75%)1 (25%)010
3rd Quarter6264.333 (50%)1 (16%)010
4th Quarter8799.872 (25%)2 (25%)2 (25%)33
— Split Totals —221275.808 (36%)4 (18%)2 (9%)33
1st Down13403.074 (30%)007
2nd Down7446.282 (28%)2 (28%)1 (14%)32
3rd Down24321.502 (100%)2 (100%)1 (50%)33
4th Down0000000
— Split Totals —221275.808 (36%)4 (18%)2 (9%)10
— Split Totals —221275.808 (36%)4 (18%)2 (9%)33
Credit: NFL Game Pass
12221.831 (8%)1 (8%)010

Cook received the majority his attempts during his rookie debut out of the singleback formation, lined up a few yards deep with quarterback Sam Bradford under center. He recorded 12 attempts for 22 yards out of this alignment, with 10 of the carries out of this alignment being run to the inside of the formation.

While he did struggle to find consistent success rushing the ball downhill without a lead-blocker, he did turn in a key 10-yard rush with the Vikings facing 3rd & 1 and backed up near their own goal line.

Credit: NFL Game Pass
58016.04 (80%)2 (40%)2 (40%)33

The second-most prominent alignment Minnesota used to employ its talented rookie against New Orleans was the shotgun formation. Cook received five carries flanked either to the left or right of Bradford, finding plenty of success along the way.

He recorded attempts of 32 and 33 yards out of the shotgun, amassing at least five yards on 80 percent of his carries out of this particular formation. In total, Cook finished the night with 80 of his 127 yards (63%) out of the shotgun, an alignment the Vikings had notably struggled to rush the ball effectively out of during the latter years of the Peterson era.

3186.02 (67%)1 (33%)010

In addition to receiving lateral handoffs out of the shotgun, Cook also recorded downhill rushing attempts out of the shotgun formation. Lined up a few yards behind Bradford in a variation to the shotgun alignment, the rookie recorded three rush attempts for 18 yards — all of which came during the third quarter.

The very small sample size argues both consistency and effectiveness, as Cook managed at least five yards on 67 percent of his carries out of the pistol, topping out at 10 yards on an attempt to the outside with 13:23 remaining on the third quarter game clock.


The I-Formation has been a staple of Minnesota’s rushing attack for many years, as much of Peterson’s success throughout his tenure with the Vikings came with fullback Jerome Felton paving the way. Shurmur did not call for Cook to run much out of the I-Formation during his debut, as the rookie recorded just two carries with a lead-blocker in front of him against New Orleans.

Of his two attempts out of this alignment, Cook maxed out with a five-yard attempt to close out the third quarter.

QuarterTime StampFormationAlignmentDown & DistanceComp/IncompRouteYardsNotes
1st8:17ShotgunBackfield1st & 10CompleteCurl4Bobble
2nd1:37I-Form / OffsetBackfield2nd & 5CompleteSwing4
2nd1:21ShotgunBackfield1st & 10CompleteAngle2
2nd0:07EmptyWide1st & GoalIncompleteSlant0Nearly Intercepted
3rd11:16ShotgunBackfield3rd & 3IncompleteFlat0Drop
Game Totals----3510-

Cook was consistently effective as a rusher and performed well beyond expectation in pass protection, but if there was one area of his game that left some to be desired it was catching the ball as a receiver. The rookie was targeted on five passes, of which he hauled in three for a total of 10 yards. However, he also dropped a pass coming out of the backfield on 3rd & 3, a miscue that ultimately did not prove to be a factor on the scoreboard.

As a receiver, Cook primarily received his targets out of the backfield, but Bradford did look his way on a slant route from the outside of the formation. This particular pass was nearly intercepted by defensive end Cameron Jordan, who unexpectedly dropped into coverage, converging with Cook as Bradford’s throw arrived.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference; Film Clips courtesy of NFL Game Pass

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BJ Reidell

Captain Content and Superior Half of About the Labor: A Minnesota Vikings Podcast. Human Flamethrower on Twitter @RobertReidell.

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