Did We See a Change at Running Back for Vikings?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings held off a charge from the New Orleans Saints late Sunday. While the second half was not nearly as productive as the first, it was a solid win all around. When the dust settled, a change at the running back position looked to have taken shape.

Did We See a Change at Running Back for Vikings?

Coming into this season, Kevin O’Connell was looking at an entirely new running back situation. Dalvin Cook was sent packing during the offseason, and Alexander Mattison was in line to be the lead back. That seemed like a relatively straightforward decision given how productive he had been as the fill-in back previously, but there was plenty of concern about depth at the position.

Minnesota felt the squeeze with their running backs enough to bring in Myles Gaskin early on, and when they needed more, a trade for Cam Akers took place. Now, with Akers out for the year and Gaskin re-signed to the practice squad, we may have seen a changing of the guard on Sunday. While Mattison drew the start, he finished with just eight carries, which was just over half of what Ty Chandler tallied.

Did We See a Change
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Like Akers before him, Chandler had the offense looking much better when he had the ball in his hands. With Mattison struggling to do anything consistent on the ground, Chandler looked spry and quick each time he got an opportunity. A more dynamic back than Mattison, Chandler has flashed exciting talent since he appeared in preseason action following the draft a year ago. Although Kene Nwangwu also exists, he’s more of a strict kick returner and doesn’t seem to factor into the running game.

What O’Connell should look for in a running back is the most dynamic talent. Mattison is not a good receiver in the passing game, and that is something where Akers had a substantial advantage over him. Chandler is also a solid pass catcher, and his quickness in hitting the hole or finding an edge is beyond noticeable. Although Mattison factored in plenty on Sunday, it appears O’Connell found more opportunity within the game’s flow for Chandler.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We may not see a complete change of the guard at the position; taking the starting role from Mattison may have additional ripple effects. Still, though, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his touches continue to be limited, and with Chandler showing so well, he should continue to get additional run. Mattison has had some nice moments in pass protection, but that isn’t enough to continue hanging onto the starting role.

The Vikings did re-sign Gaskin again this week as they look to keep the position flush with options as a whole. He has familiarity with the team from earlier this year, and while he shouldn’t be expected to factor in prominently, the thought is that he will be elevated from the practice squad on game days, at least in the short term.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

No matter what happens, it is beyond clear that Mattison has fumbled away the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the starting role. He was brought back to be the guy, and while the runway has been there for him to do so, there just has been no point in which he has looked the part. Let the Ty Chandler show commence.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.