Are We on the Brink of Seeing Kene Nwangwu?
Despite the insanely long injury report this week, there has been some news on the injury front for the Minnesota Vikings. First-round pick Christian Darrisaw is finally logging full practices for the first time. Dalvin Cook is back on the practice field, although only logging light duty. As of Wednesday, Kene Nwangwu and Dan Chisena were designated to return to practice.
Nwangwu is the fourth-round rookie out of Iowa State that has piqued my interest. He’s a guy with Tyreek Hill-level speed. Hill had a 40 time of 4.29 seconds. Nwangwu has a disputed 40 time of 4.29 or 4.31 seconds. Even if the 0.02 slower time is the correct one, that is still phenomenally fast.
When Will They Activate Nwangwu?
As we know, and I recently wrote about, Coach Zimmer never rushes to get rookies involved. Nwangwu though has plenty of special teams value as a kick returner. Ihmir Smith- Marsette has started the season as the Vikings kick returner, but has missed the first two practices of the week with a toe injury. If he’s not ready to go on Sunday and if he is deemed ready to play, it could be just the opening Nwangwu needs.
Should Smith-Marsette be ready to play or if they deem Nwangwu isn’t, they may well wait as they have 21 days after designating him to return to practice before they have to activate him to the 53 man roster. Otherwise, he would have to be put back on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Having taken him off of IR, you would assume he must be very near to being ready, and the team wants to get him involved soon.
What Will He Bring to the Team?
Obviously, that blistering speed will be a big factor, but there’s more to Nwangwu than just speed. He knows how to use the pace that he possesses. Being able to run fast in a straight line unopposed is great, but this is the NFL, and that alone isn’t going to cut it. There are two things a player needs to be able to do once he has the ball in his hands — to be able to make use of the speed he has. Nwangwu can do both of them.
Firstly, be able to read the blocks in front of you so you can find the gaps to run into. If you run fast into a brick wall, you will get just as far as you will get running slowly. Nowhere. You also need to be able to break a tackle when it comes your way. Sometimes you may be able to make the edge and get away using speed alone, but more often than not, the other guys are going to get to you.
Possessing a 6 ft 1 in, 210 lb frame, he can break a tackle and even keep the legs pumping once tackled to gain an extra few yards. Pete Bercich did an excellent “Vikings film room,” showing him putting these skills to good use during his college career.
Rounding out the RB Room
When he’s fully up and running, he will also finish what will become a really good running back unit. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison are undoubtedly a top RB duo in the league. Adding a dynamic player like Kene Nwangwu into the mix could take it to a whole new level. A healthy mix of the three and some Ameer Abdullah too, assuming he stays around could be the way to go. Only three weeks into the season, I think we’ve already seen that running Dalvin Cook into the ground is not the way to go.
Whenever they choose to get him involved, and whatever way they choose to do it — I’m excited to see him go. He can be a spark to push this team to be an even more exciting team to watch.