Vikings Might Rely on a Rookie Going Forward

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Injuries have been a big problem for the 2023 Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson has missed four straight games with a hamstring injury. He is eligible to return this week, but the Vikings haven’t made a decision about his status. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, will not return from his injury, just like running back Cam Akers.

Vikings Might Rely on a Rookie Going Forward

Vikings Might Rely on a Rookie Going Forward
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The trade acquisition from a few weeks ago also ruptured his Achilles in the Week 9 contest in Atlanta. It is his second torn Achilles, a potential death sentence for a running back, although he returned quickly from his first one and didn’t lack any explosiveness.

Regardless, the Vikings are thin at the running back position. They only employ Alexander Mattison and speedsters Ty Chandler and Kene Nwanwgu. Mattison played in a committee with Akers since his arrival. Akers’ role slowly increased, especially because the running game struggled, and the coaches wanted to give the rushing attack a spark. Chandler and Nwangwu have barely played a role on offense.

An underwhelming starter and a couple of unproven backups, Nwangwu has struggled with injuries all year. There are simply not enough bodies to enter a game. For that reason, the Vikings have two options now — they can sign someone or elevate rookie DeWayne McBride from the practice squad.

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McBride was selected in the seventh round of this year’s draft, and many fans and pundits had high expectations for the rookie runner. He was forecasted to be the 2023 version of Isiah Pacheco, a 2022 late-rounder who has been excellent for the Chiefs.

Entering training camp, the backup jobs to Mattison were up for grabs, with all of Nwangwu, Chandler, and McBride competing. Nwangwu got hurt quickly, and Chandler clearly separated himself from his competition. Another chance arrived in the preseason when the runners split time, but Chandler looked much more dynamic, winning the role.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah then signed free agents Aaron Dykes and Abram Smith. When the roster cuts arrived, the Vikings released Dykes, Smith, and McBride, but the rookie has apparently done enough to earn a spot on the practice squad.

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What made McBride an intriguing prospect are his college statistics. He racked up over 3,000 rushing yards and 32 rushing scores in his last two seasons at UAB alone, averaging 7.3 yards per carry in his final year.

A violent rushing style with plenty of broken tackles on tape was also the reason for the hype. It hasn’t immediately translated to the NFL level, and the lower-level competition in the Conference of America certainly helped him put up huge numbers.

Running backs usually hit the ground running in the NFL, but like all rookies, they can still improve. McBride might have needed some time to get in better shape and to learn how to read the plays to find the correct running lanes. He also wasn’t asked to catch passes in college, but that ability is a requirement in the NFL.

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It remains to be seen who the Vikings opt to bring in. Maybe they will host some tryouts, but at the end of the day, there aren’t any good running backs available at this point of the season, so McBride might be their best option regardless of potential improvements.

While he is unlikely to transform a bad running offense, there is a decent chance he will be active on gameday and potentially get a few carries to prove himself.

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