Vikings Could Have Unforeseen Star in the Making

National Opinion of the Vikings Is Different from Yours
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It was his first-ever start.

The Minnesota Vikings called upon running back Ty Chandler in Week 15 at the Cincinnati Bengals after his teammate Alexander Mattison was ruled out because of an ankle injury. And during his first start, Chandler delivered, so much so that Minnesota could have a star on its hands.

Vikings Could Have Unforeseen Star in the Making

Of course, continuity and staying power will be crucial for Chandler, but if he were “just a guy” at running back, banking 132 rushing yards on 23 carries with a touchdown probably wouldn’t have been a thing. When the lights turned bright for the 25-year-old, he made the most of it, suggesting Chandler has a higher upside than many envisioned.

Have Unforeseen Star
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Moreover, Chandler didn’t just bank a bunch of yards behind some powerful offensive line — the Vikings don’t feature one of those front fives, at least not in 2023. The purple ground game has struggled all season, and Chandler’s performance was the first time in 2023 that the rushing attack looked dominant.

The Athletic‘s Alec Lewis tweeted evidence Tuesday supporting the Chandler-heavy aspect of his first start, “Vikings RB Ty Chandler had the seventh most rushing yards over expected in Week 15 among RBs, according to Next Gen Stats. Overall rushing success rate was highest against Bengals that it’s been since Justin Jefferson went down.”

Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) eyes the goal line on a touchdown run in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

What does this mean? Well, excelling via Yards over Expected indicates Chandler “did more with less” and that his nifty 132 yards were a product of him — not necessarily the offensive line in front. The wizardry at Cincinnati was a Chandler-first production, aided by his skillset and not exclusively by a terrific system.

For context, Dalvin Cook struggled tremendously last year via Yards over Expected and was likely partly why Minnesota released the veteran last June. Mattison, too, has been criticized in 2023 for relatively low Yards over Expected.

Turnover Woes
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Chandler told reporters Saturday, “It felt great, man. Big credit to the o-line. I couldn’t have done it without them, changing the line of scrimmage. They all did a great job. I’m really thankful for them. It’s a blessing to be out there. Big shoutout to my running backs room, getting ready for this moment.”

If Chandler’s first-start output translates to the remaining three games, perhaps he can be the RB1 solution in Minnesota next year. From the moment it became apparent that the Vikings ground game wouldn’t much improve — arguably sometime in early November — many fans speculated a high-to-mid-round draft pick would have to be used on the next RB1. That could still happen, but if Chandler drops a couple more 100+ yard rushing efforts in the season’s final three games, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be the RB1 in 2024.

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The Vikings host the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium this weekend, and Detroit’s defense ranks fourth-best per run defense DVOA through 15 weeks. It will be a wonderful test for Chandler and the Vikings’ offensive line.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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