Writing on Wall Seems to Suggest Vikings RB by Committee

ESPN Names RB2
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion (14) hands off to running back Ty Chandler (32) during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings said adios to Dalvin Cook on June 9th after six seasons with the franchise.

Three months before that transaction, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah retained then-RB2 Alexander Mattison for two years and seven million bucks.

Writing on Wall Seems to Suggest Vikings RB by Committee

So, since Cook’s departure, most Vikings faithful have assumed Mattison is on deck for an RB1 workload, a fair assumption. A do-all RB1 is all Vikings fans know from the last 16 years — that’s the perk of employing Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook without interruption since 2007.

Writing on Wall Seems
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) walks off the field after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

But perhaps a running back by committee is on the way. It’s a strategy that seems more realistic than ever for the Vikings, especially considering the roster talent. The club employs four noteworthy players with ‘RB’ next to their names, including Mattison, Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and rookie DeWayne McBride.

Vikings.com senior editor Craig Peters seemed to hint at a committee this week. He previewed Minnesota’s 2023 running attack, and Mattison-everything didn’t feel like the takeaway. In fact, he spent a considerable portion of the analysis opining on non-Mattison runners.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

“Head Coach Kevin O’Connell is a major proponent of trying to have every player as close to 100 percent as possible each week, and he and the Health & Performance staff have the capability and willingness to pay attention to workloads and adjust in practices between game days. The Vikings have been building their depth at the position through late-round picks in each of the past [three] seasons,” he wrote.

Minnesota scooped McBride out of Round 7 during April’s draft, a clear signal at the time that Cook was on his way out.

Nov 13, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; UAB Blazers running back DeWayne McBride (22) jumps over Marshall Thundering Herd safety E.J. Jackson (21) during the third quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports.

Peters continued, “Coaches are again likely to value keeping the playbook as open as possible, so a big part of competing for carries will be the young runners showing what they can do with an increased role, followed by capitalizing on carries in the preseason.”

There is little mystery about the first hand-off of 2023. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium, that rushing attempt will go to Mattison’s chest and hands, barring a summer injury. Yet, thereafter, the prognosis is less clear. Folks merely assume that Mattison is ‘the guy,’ but Minnesota has the roster beef to formulate a committee approach.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans have also daydreamed about Nwangwu’s expanded role in the offense for two years. The man returns kicks like a phenom; why not use his speed on offense? That has been the talker for quite some time.

On the whole, expect Mattison to lead the 2023 Vikings in carries and rushing yards, but his workload probably won’t mirror Peterson or Cook from the last two decades. That’s not how the sport works anymore.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.