Is Kene Nwangwu Likely Gone for Minnesota?

Another Minor Injury Surfaces for Vikings
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

This offseason has been one of change for the Minnesota Vikings running back room. Dalvin Cook is no longer with the organization, and Alexander Mattison has taken over as the lead back. What if Kene Nwangwu’s time is done as well?

Is Kene Nwangwu Likely Gone for Minnesota?

When the Minnesota Vikings agreed to a new deal with running back Alexander Mattison, it put plenty of plans in motion. There was never a time that Dalvin Cook would play 2023 at his current cap number for Minnesota, and without a restructure, he was on his way out. The ripple effect from there was unknown, but Kene Nwangwu being impacted didn’t seem necessarily likely.

Until now.

After the Seattle Seahawks contest, it seems certain that talented youngster Ty Chandler has won the backup running back job. Chandler has shown well during the preseason and performed similarly last year during the same exhibition action. An initial depth chart suggested Nwangwu may be ahead of him, but his inability to remain available could cost him.

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

Nwangwu has remained off the field for the duration of training camp, and that certainly doesn’t help a running back looking to establish himself at the position. With Iowa State, Nwangwu was hardly more than a backup, providing the most impact in the return game. That has played out for Minnesota as well. Through 28 career games, Nwangwu has rushed just 22 times, with his kick returns being the point of emphasis.

Now, with Chandler factoring in as a better runner, DeWayne McBride being an intriguing late-round pick, and multiple bodies cycled through the position, Nwangwu may be on his way out. Minnesota has had Kareem Hunt in for a visit, and Abram Smith or Aaron Dykes could challenge for a better upside play.

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It’s clear the Vikings remain unsettled with their running back room, and a castoff veteran joining the club before Week 1 remains plausible. Nwangwu being less of a runner than a returner and Brandon Powell also on the roster gives Minnesota something to consider. It seems unlikely that Nwangwu would ever be the preferred option out of the backfield, and his flexibility is diminished by injury and competition.

Powell is familiar with O’Connell and has acclimated with the Vikings seamlessly. He appears destined to make the roster as a wide receiver, and his greatest impact will likely be felt on special teams. That cuts into the effectiveness of Nwangwu as a whole and furthers Minnesota’s opportunity to expand upon the versatility of that roster spot.

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell

Coming into the year, it seemed relatively straightforward that the fourth-round pick from 2021 would remain on the roster. Unfortunately for Nwangwu, he’s miscast as a running back, and a young room can’t afford to have non-contributors in it. If the Vikings had a true bell-cow back, Nwangwu being thrust into sporadic rushing usage may be doable. With Mattison unlikely to be an every-down player, O’Connell needs all hands on deck from the running back position.

How the Vikings go into the regular season and what stable of running backs they bring with them remains to be seen. It shouldn’t be considered straightforward that Nwangwu is among them, but that has changed since training camp opened.


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.

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