An Unpopular Opinion About Dalvin Cook
Let’s Reid between the lines…
Against the Packers, Dalvin Cook had what could be the best game of his career. Cook was coming off of a groin injury, and the Vikings were extremely lucky that the injury wasn’t re-aggravated. But, their luck could run out if they don’t start using second-stringer Alexander Mattison more, especially if they get into the playoffs.
Let’s start off by recognizing Dalvin Cook’s talent. The fourth-year running back is nothing short of a prolific player, and he could become the best Vikings running back of all time. Yes, I believe Cook’s ability to contribute in both the run and pass game puts him a step above former Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson. Naturally, the Vikings want to use Cook a lot.
However, Cook is only a threat when he’s at full strength.
For three years, the concern about Cook has been his durability. The concern is warranted, as Dalvin tore an ACL early in his rookie season and has been plagued with injuries ever since. As an insurance policy, Minnesota drafted running back Alexander Mattison last year.
Surprisingly, Mattison has been almost as effective as Cook. Considering their similar build and running style, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise.
Last season, Mattison ran at a pace of 4.58 yards per attempt compared to Cook who averaged 4.34 YPA. Anything above 4 YPA is excellent in the NFL, so Mattison looked like the steal of the draft. Those numbers proved not to be a fluke, as he continues to gash defenses and is currently averaging 4.44 YPA. The two players perform so similarly that sometimes play-by-play announcers don’t even notice when Mattison subs in for Cook.
In a way, the Vikings have twin running backs. Yet, they’re putting all the wear and tear on one.
In the Green Bay game, Cook got 30 carries, while Mattison only had three. I understand favoring your highly-paid superstar a bit, but at a 10:1 ratio? That doesn’t add up. The longer the Vikings use Cook disproportionately, the greater the risk of losing him to injury.
When the team renewed Cook’s contract this September, there were talks of limiting his snap count to try to keep him healthy. I thought it was a good idea, but that strategy seems to have gone out the window.
Considering Kirk Cousins’ struggles with the passing game, it makes perfect sense for Minnesota to ride their running backs. The Vikings overused Cook against Green Bay and are lucky he didn’t get hurt. It’s time to start playing Cook less and Mattison more.