Should we be worried about Dalvin Cook?

Image courtesy of Vikings.com and Andy Kenutis

The Minnesota Vikings reached .500 Sunday against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that, coming into Sunday, had a claim to the title of worst team in the NFL. From a birds eye/ends justifying the means point of view, the Vikings fifth win in it’s last six games should be a gigantic positive. Should be.

Instead the game, like the previous match-up against the Carolina Teddy’s, left the Vikings with the weird mix of relief and fear that people only typically have when they use a truck stop bathroom.

The Jags game again was full of mistakes by the Vikings, something that has plagued the purple all season. While I’ve discussed those mistakes here:

This article is going to focus on the play/health of Dalvin Cook. Cook somewhat angrily said to a reporter who asked Cook whether or not he was worried about “breaking down” down the stretch, to which he replied “You wouldn’t ask Derrick Henry that”. I wrote about that this week, as well.

The there were the reports from Minnesota offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak saying Cook has been “beat up” these past couple weeks, and the fact that Cook’s performances lo these couple games have been not up to his typical 2020 standard.

Case in point, in the last four games Cook has averaged 3.8 yards a carry or less. That’s after averaging 5.1 yards per carry through the first eight games of the season (and only having a sub 4.0-yards-per-carry average once (against the Seattle Seahawks)).

What’s most troubling is that Cook, while putting up 120 rushing yards and nearly 180 total yards against the Jags, should’ve been able to run all over Jacksonville Sunday. The Jags entered Sunday 30th against the run in terms of yards and attempts, so Cook’s 3.8 yards per attempt are a bit disconcerting as are the sheer amounts of touches he’s getting. 38 in a single game? 34, 32 and 38 in three of the last four games?

Turns out I’m not alone in that sentiment as multiple Vikings fans/writers have said as much today after the Vikings fourth win in five games:

We saw Cook breakdown last season before the playoffs, something that contributed to the embarrassing loss to the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs as Cook and his injured AC-joint made him a shell of his early season self.

With Alexander Mattison out Sunday it isn’t hard to see why he got the ball nearly 40 times, however, the Vikings need Dalvin healthy if they want to make and contend in the playoffs. But that’s the conundrum, as they also need Cook to produce as he has all season if they intend on winning at least three of their final four contests.

For now Cook could indeed just be a bit beat up, which is something that can heal considering that the playoffs are a month away. The Vikings passing game is nearly unstoppable when quarterback Kirk Cousins has time, so they’ll have to lean on their veteran QB and superstar receivers down the stretch so Cook isn’t injured further before the playoffs begin.

Or this could just be a small slump, by Cook’s high standards, one that still produces 180 all purpose yards in a down week. However, as Cook has yet to complete a full season without missing a game, including this season, it isn’t hyperbolic to feel like there’s another shoe/ankle brace waiting to drop on Cook and the Vikings.

Just check Twitter.