Will Ty Chandler Step Up?

Vikings Saw
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have dealt with significant change over the past week or two. While losing Kirk Cousins to a season-ending injury was the most notable issue, last week’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons proved disheartening. With Cam Akers now also done for the year, it’s time for Ty Chandler to step up.

Will Ty Chandler Step Up?

Although the final storyline against the Falcons was one of marveling at the performance by Josh Dobbs, a significant amount of negatives also took place. Kevin O’Connell watched as his team essentially fought a gladiator battle, and plenty of his talent was removed from the field throughout the game.

Ty Chandler Step
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Hidden behind the performance of Dobbs was yet again a lackluster showing from running back Alexander Mattison. Held under 50 yards for the fifth straight week, he also managed a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. With the quarterback position undergoing significant change, O’Connell absolutely needs to get more from the running game. At this point, it doesn’t seem that production will come from Mattison, and the options behind him have changed.

Minnesota acquired Akers earlier this season in a deal with the Los Angeles Rams. He had looked like the more explosive and better back, but the Vikings hadn’t swapped who they had leading the backfield in carries. After tearing his Achilles for a second time, they now don’t have the option of Akers taking over for Mattison, and then the running back room is again thin.

Chart before Final Preseason
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

Ty Chandler has been given very little run throughout his brief career thus far. With just 14 rushing attempts to his name, Chandler has gained 62 yards on the ground. A shiftier back than Mattison, Chandler also can work into the passing game. This season, he has brought in five of six targets and turned them into 43 yards. It’s been a nice start, and we have seen glimpses of production, but now it gets ratcheted up a bit.

Mattison will certainly continue to operate as the lead running back, but Akers was already eating into his production. The expectation should be for that role to now fall into the hands of Chandler, and this is his first genuine opportunity to see what he can do with it. The former North Carolina Tar Heel isn’t going to become a household name overnight, but the more he can do to push Mattison, the better.

Tennessee running back Ty Chandler (8) is defended by Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal (8) during a game between Tennessee and Texas A&M in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

Behind Chandler, there aren’t many options for the Vikings. Kene Nwangwu could operate some out of the backfield, although he is more of a return specialist than anything. DeWayne McBride still exists on the practice squad and could be elevated, but that’s the last remaining option. Myles Gaskin was with Minnesota earlier this year and is again available, but no move to bring in another back has been consummated yet.

If the Vikings are going to keep their winning streak rolling, they will need to keep playing complete games in all facets. Operating on the ground allows Dobbs a less stressful load through the air. Finding a way to get Mattison going hasn’t been sustained at any point this season, and now Chandler will take his crack and see what he can do.

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.