Vikings HC Excited to Give a Backup More Chances

No Love for Kevin
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Injuries have been a big problem for the Vikings, at least on paper. On the field, they have been just fine, regardless of their adversity. Winning a game after losing the starting quarterback for the season while his backup is on IR and the next man up suffers a concussion is an impressive feat. Justin Jefferson has been out for four weeks but is nearing a return. Cam Akers, meanwhile, is out for the season.

Vikings HC Excited to Give a Backup More Chances

Running back Akers will not make a comeback in 2023 because of a torn Achilles tendon, the second in his career. The rushing attack has been the most significant weakness of the Vikings, apart from turnovers. It must be fixed sooner rather than later, especially without Kirk Cousins under center. Losing Akers is a big blow for that task, as Alexander Mattison hasn’t been particularly efficient.

KOC Is Excited to Give a Backup More Chances
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However, whenever a player is getting hurt, it means more chances for his backup. The next-man-up mentality is not just something coaches talk about. It is a fundamental aspect of the NFL and football in general. Behind Mattison, the Vikings employ sophomore Ty Chandler and kick return specialist Kene Nwangwu. Head coach Kevin O’Connell expects both to get some extra touches on offense, and he is particularly excited for Chandler:

Hopefully, we’ll be able to get Ty more involved and assume a little bit more of that role Cam was assuming and really starting to thrive getting the touches in games, and the physicality which he was playing with.

We’re gonna feel not having Cam just overall in our locker room and out there on Sundays but I’m excited to see Ty. I think from the time he’s gotten here he just continues to show a level of explosiveness and doing some really good things with the ball in his hand and kind of growing as a player right before our eyes so I think he’ll get some opportunities and then Kene. Kene gives us an experienced guy with some juice and some explosiveness as well to kind of continue to have a committee approach to that backfield and ride the hot hand.

Kevin O’Connell
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Unlike the powerful Mattison, Chandler is a dynamic runner. At his draft combine, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, displaying his high school track speed. He spent his first four college seasons at Tennesee, running for roughly 2,000 yards and 13 scores. Stuck in a committee role, he transferred to North Carolina for his fifth and final college season, and Chandler rushed for 1,092 yards and added 13 touchdowns.

In addition to his rushing skills, he is a decent receiver and can be used as a checkdown option in the passing game, and his speed always makes him dangerous after the catch. He even ran some real receiver routes in college.

Vikings Activate Rookie
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A thumb injury and having Cook and Mattison ahead of him on the depth chart slowed him down in his rookie season. Chandler rushed six times for 20 yards. Playing in all nine contests in 2023, he mainly handled the ball as the kick returner, replacing Nwangwu during his absences, but still rushed for 42 yards on eight carries and caught five passes for 43 yards. Eleven of his 13 offensive touches came in the three games before Akers arrived.

The Vikings could opt to sign another running back, but no premier guys are available at this point of the season. The few available options are players who failed to make other teams in recent weeks and months. DeWayne McBride, the seventh-round rookie, is on the practice squad and virtually the fourth and final option for the running back vacancy.

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Whenever the 25-year-old Chandler touches the ball, good things seem to happen. For some reason, that hasn’t been the case very often. Without Akers, he is the main backup for Mattison, and because of the struggles in the running game, he should certainly get some more touches.

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