New Starter to Get His Shot for Vikings

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Because of injuries, it is official.

The Minnesota Vikings will have a new starting running back this Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals, as second-year runner Ty Chandler takes over for Alexander Mattison.

New Starter to Get His Shot for Vikings

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Thursday, “Vikings ruled out RB Alexander Mattison for Saturday’s game at Cincinnati and are listing WR Justin Jefferson as questionable.”

New Starter to Get
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And, for clarity, Jefferson is expected to play in Week 15, but Mattison will not. It’s an ankle injury for Mattison, suffered last weekend at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Chandler, 25, has played somewhat significantly throughout 2023, but Saturday will be his first turn as the team’s starter and quasi-bellcow back. The Vikings cut ties with longtime halfback Dalvin Cook in June, re-signed Mattison a few months before that, and promoted Chandler on the depth chart as Mattison’s primary backup.

Minnesota also added Cam Akers for depth via trade in September, but Akers tore his Achilles tendon in November, the week after quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered the same injury.

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So, for the Bengals-Vikings tryst, this will be Minnesota’s full RB platter:

RB1: Ty Chandler
RB2: Kene Nwangwu
RB3: Myles Gaskin (PS)
RB4: DeWayne McBride (PS)

Fullback C.J. Ham could be in line for a few carries, too, and it is unclear if Gaskin or McBride will be promoted. We shall see.

Chart before Final Preseason
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To date in 2023, Chandler has logged 203 rushing yards on 49 carries (4.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He’s also contributed 13 receptions for 90 yards, including a nifty punt fake conversion against the Denver Broncos in Week 11. Chandler also had a fake punt conversion against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.

Fans have longed for more Chandler — basically from the moment Akers fell injured — because of his speed and upside. At times this season, Mattison has struggled as a true RB1, although he’s performed well in the last few games. During Mattison’s blah games, Vikings faithful have yearned for Chandler touches, which are now on deck for Saturday.

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What does Chandler have that Mattison does not? The answer is quite straightforward. Speed, burst, and upside. He ran a 4.38 forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine. Mattison ran a 4.57 forty-time in 2019, which is akin to tight end speed. To put it bluntly — Chandler is fast, and Mattison is not. Speed isn’t everything in football, but it doesn’t hurt.

Chandler also shined during the preseason. Head coach Kevin O’Connell said about Chandler after a game in August, “I thought Ty Chandler jumped out. Just any time he had the ball in his hands, very rarely tackled by the first defender that was in space. Catching the ball. And then picked up really where he left off as far as his ability when the lights come on to sometimes turn into a different guy.”

The Vikings rank 30th per rushing DVOA after 14 games, so any boost from Chandler — or anybody — will be welcomed.

Minnesota hasn’t won a game in Cincinnati since 1992.

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).

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