What if the Vikings Turn to a Familiar Face at Running Back?

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Despite the Minnesota Vikings deciding to move on from Dalvin Cook this offseason, it has continued to seem like the organization is not set on Alexander Mattison running away with the role. What if they turn to a former fan favorite for some help?

What if the Vikings Turn to a Familiar Face at Running Back?

The Vikings have brought in Kareem Hunt on a visit, and they have also signed some training camp depth at the running back position. Right now, Alexander Mattison appears to be the lead back, with some combination of Kene Nwanwgwu, Ty Chandler, and DeWayne McBride behind him. That group may benefit from some experience, and the Atlanta Falcons have an answer they could offer.

Enter Cordarelle Patterson.

Mike Zimmer never could figure out how to use the wide receiver out of Tennessee, and the Vikings largely failed on their 2013 first-round pick. He was force-fed as a wideout but couldn’t ever run crisp routes, and his hands were questionable at best. Despite showing elite athleticism as a kick returner, the best utilization practices continued to fly over Zimmer’s head.

the Vikings Turn
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Patterson then went to Oakland and was largely cast as the same player. It wasn’t until playing for the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick in 2018 that Patterson generated more than 40 attempts as a runner. The Chicago Bears then backed that off in 2019 before pushing ahead in 2020. The past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons have seen Patterson become a gadget player with a focus on running back. That’s exactly what the Vikings could benefit from.

Mattison should be expected to be a fine runner for the Vikings. He has long been among the better backups in the league, and taking over for Cook should give him an additional opportunity to showcase his abilities. What may be a problem for Mattison, however, is that the Vikings interior offensive line leaves plenty to be desired. Opportunity to run between the tackles is difficult, and he may not be the talent to execute it.

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Grabbing a traditional running back like Hunt, or some other free agent, could result in similar issues. While still talented, the focus would be to rush in the traditional sense. With a player like Patterson, Kevin O’Connell can get creative and open up the playbook a bit more. Patterson doesn’t need to line up behind the quarterback, and he can be given the ball in a handful of ways.

Beyond just working as a runner, Patterson can be a dynamic threat in the passing game. Upgrading an aging Adam Thielen with Jordan Addison was a big move, and T.J. Hockenson is much better than Irv Smith Jr. Still, the Vikings were searching for more options to provide quarterback Kirk Cousins last year, and Patterson raises the water level more than that of K.J. Osborn or someone further down the depth chart.

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At 32 years old, his skillset is certainly on the tail-end of his career. At $5.5 million for 2023, his cap hit is not untenable, and the Vikings could get out a year from now for less than $3 million. Acquiring him shouldn’t cost a substantial amount, but that type of acquisition represents a marginal boost on the fringe of the roster.

Maybe the Vikings decide they are content with what they have in the locker room. Then again, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made changes at this time a year ago, and he could again be looking to enhance the opportunity for a competitive rebuild.

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.