Alexander Mattison Is in Trouble

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
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Across his first four seasons in the NFL, Alexander Mattison played 59 games. The catch is that he started just six of them. No longer working as the backup for Dalvin Cook, Minnesota’s lead back has been anything but lead-worthy.

Alexander Mattison Is in Trouble

Alexander Mattison came into Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles looking to distance himself from an ugly Week 1 performance. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are strong on the defensive line, but turning 11 carries into just 34 yards is beyond inexcusable. Minnesota was substantial favorites for their home opener, and falling so flat against a beatable team was frustrating.

Mattison Is
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Rather than come out of the gates strong in Philadelphia, Mattison doubled down with an even worse performance. Not only did he rush for just 28 yards on eight carries, but he coughed up a critical fumble with the Vikings in position to put points on the board. It was just the third fumble of his career so that at least hasn’t been a recurring theme, but the lack of production is scary.

Kevin O’Connell was brought in to utilize the Minnesota passing game. Kirk Cousins has ample weapons at his disposal now, and an offensive-minded head coach is the type of leader who can exploit each of them. That’s not to say his goal has been to abandon the running game, but with Mattison replacing Dalvin Cook, it would look different this season.

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With Cook behind Cousins in formation, the Vikings had a legitimate dual-threat offense. That also seemed replicated each time Mattison was elevated to the starting role, with Cook missing time. Sprinkled in sporadically, there was never a question if Mattison could work. Now schemed as the lead guy, it seems there are only questions if he ever will.

It’s a small sample size with just two games under his belt, but Mattison is averaging a career-worst 3.3 yards per carry. His 31 yards per game average is below his first two seasons in the league, both of which he played second fiddle to Cook. His explosiveness appears to be lacking, and with Minnesota having so many questions upfront, he can’t find any holes.

At this point, it stands to reason that the Vikings might be wise to pull the plug on Mattison operating as the lead runner. That could mean sprinkling in a lot more of Ty Chandler or signing an established free agent such as Kareem Hunt. The Vikings had Hunt in for a visit during the preseason, and the questions surrounding their running back room swirled plenty. Now, their refrain has only gotten louder.

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Heading into 2023, the Vikings gave Mattison a golden opportunity. He was brought back, having been told he would be the unquestioned starter. That may have all been true and a worthy plan going into the year, but we’re quickly seeing it’s not working. Mattison has quickly embarked onto thin ice, and waiting for it to crack isn’t a good idea.

The Vikings need to figure out the running game, and while they’ll have a longer week to prepare for the Chargers, there isn’t much time left to get it right.

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.