Vikings May Have a ’70-30 Rotation’

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings made some drastic roster changes in the 2023 offseason, including the departure of some longtime staples of the organization. Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook were released. First-rounder Jordan Addison will replace Thielen, with Brian Asamoah taking over for Kendricks.

Vikings May Have a ’70-30 Rotation’

The open spot left by running back Cook will be filled by his backup Alexander Mattison. It will be the first time in years without a true bell-cow running back under contract after one-and-a-half decades of Adrian Peterson and Cook.

may have
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Mattison will be able to log a majority of running back touches for the first time in his career. Cody Benjamin from CBS Sports classified all RB groups according to their projected workload. While some teams have a true committee and others feature bell-cow backs, the Vikings landed in the tier of ’70-30 rotations.’

Benjamin’s definition for those rotations is pretty fitting: “These teams are set to deploy a range of ‘featured backs” — some of them elite, others less cemented as long-term RB1s. Almost all of them are also set to rely on change-of-pace counterparts, hence the rough estimate of a 70% vs. 30% split of duties.”

Everyone who watched Ty Chandler in the two preseason games expects him to get some touches, and so does the CBS Sports analyst, but he is not ready to hand him more than a change-of-pace role.

Alexander Mattison is a tougher, more straightforward option than predecessor Dalvin Cook. He’s never rushed for even 500 yards, but speedy young backup Ty Chandler may need time before he becomes a serious threat to the starting gig.

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports
All 17 of the Vikings
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

Mattison logged 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in four years as Cook’s backup and added 70 catches for 526 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. He is a solid three-down running back who can work as a pass-catcher and provide trustworthy pass protection.

A problem could be the lack of breakaway speed compared to his predecessor. While Cook produced some big-play touchdowns, Mattison is solely a guy for shorter runs. He doesn’t possess the same speed and shiftiness but provides more power.

What’s interesting is Mattison’s numbers when Cook didn’t play, and it was the Mattison show. Mattison has started six games in his career and rushed 117 times for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns in those contests. He also caught 23 passes for 216 yards and 2 more touchdowns.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler, meanwhile, is stylistically a different runner than Mattison, as he is lighter but has elite straight-line speed. At the combine, he logged a 4.38 40-yard dash. A year ago, Chandler turned heads in the preseason but missed the majority of the season with a thumb injury and later couldn’t crack the rotation with Cook and Mattison healthy.

He had an average yards per run of 7.5 over 15 carries in three preseason games last year. That dropped to 3.0 in the two games this year, but the offensive line has badly struggled to open holes for him. The Tennessee and North Carolina product still looked as dynamic as ever and had some promising runs. In addition to that, he showed his excellent hands to help in the passing game.

Chandler has taken over the backup job with Kene Nwangwu not practicing and DeWayne McBride looking like an inferior player, and a 70-30 split is a fair assessment.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt