Vikings Audition New Running Back

Minnesota Vikings bellcow tailback Dalvin Cook was injured last Sunday, casting doubt on his availability for the remainder of the 2021 season.

His prognosis to return depends on the person speaking or typing. NFL insiders like Adam Schefter and Ian Rapaport speculate Cook will return in a few weeks. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer stated the Florida State alumnus is day-to-day, meaning he could play as soon as Sunday.

Minnesota travels to Detroit this weekend to take on the 0-10-1 Lions.

Well, betting money suggests men like Schefter and Rapaport are closer to the truth because the Vikings worked out former Lions RB Kerryon Johnson yesterday.

The team wouldn’t need Johnson if Cook was on track to play in Week 13.

Johnson was a 2nd-Round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, some 20 picks ahead of Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill. He started seven games as a rookie, accumulating 854 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Then, starting in his rookie campaign, Johnson was beset by injuries, and that trend continued for the next three seasons.

He also signed on with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021, but that experiment didn’t last long. Johnson played nine special teams snaps for San Francisco and is now a free agent.

The Vikings are interested in him for veteran depth. Cook will likely be back by the playoffs – if the Vikings make it – and the team will now rely on a combination of Alexander Mattison and rookie Kene Nwangwu at running back. Those two players should handle the heavy lifting amid Cook’s absence, but Johnson has the experience if either one of them flounders or falls injured like Cook.

Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson’s aptitudes fall somewhere in the middle of Mattison and Nwangwu. He’s faster than Mattison but slower than Nwangwu (most humans are). He possesses a bruising style of rushing, comparable to Mattison. The major knock on Johnson is availability – he’s simply been injured too often to latch on with a team as a full-time ball carrier.

If signed by the Vikings, he’d basically fill the “Ameer Abdullah” role for a few weeks with the Vikings offense, biding time for Cook’s eventual return.

Otherwise, the next couple of weeks are an apropos time for Minnesota to kick the tires on Nwangwu’s RB2 capability. The man can return kickoffs like a demon, so Vikings faithful hope that speed can translate to offensive production. It should.

Interestingly, the Vikings take on Lions in Week 13, the city where Johnson spent three seasons. Minnesota is favored by seven points.

Johnson is only 24 years old.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).