The New Starter Claims To Be Ready for New Role

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; A detailed view of the cleats worn by Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) before the game against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Alexander Mattison is the new top running back in Minnesota after one-and-a-half decades of Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook. The two ex-Vikings were dominant forces in the NFL.

The New Starter Claims To Be Ready for New Role

Peterson led the league three times in rushing yards and twice in touchdowns, was a four-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler with every major rushing record in Vikings franchise history. Cook went to four straight Pro Bowls and is the only player with at least 1,100 rushing yards in each of the last four seasons.

The New Starter Claims To Be Ready for New Role
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates with Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84), back, after he scores a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

It is now on Mattison to continue the success story of running backs in Minnesota. He spent his first four seasons as a professional in the shadow of Cook but stepped out of it with the release of Cook last month.

Mattison was a free agent entering the offseason with the expectation to suit up for a different team in the 2023 campaign. To the surprise of him and most fans of the franchise, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah re-signed the former third-round pick to a two-year $7 million contract with most of it fully guaranteed.

He told SiriusXM NFL Radio in June, “I actually didn’t think that I’d be back in Minnesota, so it’s a blessing to be back, to be in a place where I spent the first four years of my career and loved it there. To be there, be a part of this team, this locker room, the ownership, the staff. It’s a great place to be, so I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, and while I’m with this opportunity in front of me, I just see so much upside.”

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) reacts after losing a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, Mattison appeared on the Daily Delivery Podcast for The Star Tribune and emphasized his excitement for his new role.

For me, it’s a great opportunity to step into the role, the limelight and the position I’ve always dreamt of being in. All the work I’ve put in to this point, all the work following in [Cook’s] footsteps, side by side, challenging each other every day, prepared me for a moment like this where I can have the opportunity to seize what’s in front of me.

Alexander Mattison

It is an adjustment for the Vikes to move on from their star running back to a career backup. However, Mattison showed his upside to be a starter whenever Cook was out. In six games as a starter, he rushed 117 times in those contests for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns. That equals 19.5 carries a game, a really high number, which shows that he can handle the big workload of a true bell cow running back. He also caught 23 passes for 216 yards and 2 more touchdowns.

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

When Cook was released, many expected a committee in the Vikings’ backfield but head coach Kevin O’Connell underlined that he expects Mattison to be his top runner. “We feel that there’s talented guys behind Alex that can provide roles within our offense or maybe depending on down and distance, depending on situation in the game, we could get some different guys in there but all knowing that it’s about that complete group being able to do everything we ask them on every single snap both in the run and the pass game.”

The backups will have roles but only “behind” Mattison. Those backups will be Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, and DeWayne McBride who will all compete for the RB2 role in training camp.

Mattison just turned 25 and produced 1,670 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 59 games with the Vikings.

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