Ex-Vikings Star Still Confident Following Horrendous Season

Dalvin Cook Uses Chalkboard Treatment for Fine
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

In their first year after hiring a new regime, the Minnesota Vikings finished the 2022 campaign with a surprisingly successful 13-4 record. Still, they got bounced in the postseason by the Daniel Jones-led Giants. Just a few months later, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell parted ways with some franchise cornerstones in their second offseason.

Ex-Vikings Star Still Confident Following Horrendous Season

Viking in Playoffs
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Wideout Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, and linebacker Eric Kendricks were prominent players on the chopping block. All three were significant contributors in the Mike Zimmer era, but as they grew older and the contracts inflated, it was time to move on. While Cook struggled, Kendricks and Thielen posted productive numbers in their first pro experience outside Minnesota.

The four-time Pro Bowl running back joined the Vikings in the second round of the 2017 draft as Rick Spielman’s first draft choice in that season. Sam Bradford was acquired in exchange for that first-round choice. Cook immediately showed his explosive skill set in the few preseason reps and the first four games of the regular season until he suffered a torn ACL, landing him on IR for the remainder of his rookie campaign.

Ex-Vikings Star Still Confident Following Horrendous Season
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As he was clearly not back at 100%, a slow second season was followed by four productive years with four straight trips to the Pro Bowl. The former Florida State standout was one of the league’s elite runners. In the final stretch of the 2022 campaign, though, he looked visibly slow and seemingly lost a step. The Vikings released him and promoted longtime backup Alexander Mattison to the starting role.

Elevating Mattison was a mistake; parting ways with Cook was not. He is now off the books and had a disappointing stint with the New York Jets following his long free-agency saga and a short playoff push with the Ravens.

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Once again available on the open market, the 28-year-old talked to KPRC 2’s Aaron Wilson. According to himself, he is “still that guy.”

I’ve got it all. The tools are still here. I didn’t really get no reps last year. The legs are fresh, the resume speaks for itself. I’m still Dalvin Cook. I’m still that guy. For me, I don’t like to toot my own horn. I just like to go up there and put my helmet on and line up on the grass.

Dalvin Cook

Last season, Cook was indeed not that guy anymore. He was supposed to spell star rusher Breece Hall, but the difference between the two was so immense that the Jets had no choice but to give Hall all the touches he could handle, especially with Zach Wilson under center. In 15 games with the Jets, Cook rushed for 214 yards on 67 carries, resulting in an atrocious 3.2 yards per carry. His 15 receptions led to 78 yards, but he failed to reach the endzone.

Former Viking Has Chance
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Following his release, the Ravens picked him up. As the number one seed in the AFC with a subsequent bye week in the first round, it was a great opportunity to hunt that elusive ring. Still, it was also a good opportunity, as the Ravens had lost multiple runners with injuries. In the divisional round, Cook logged eight carries for 23 yards, primarily in garbage time. One week later, facing the Chiefs, the veteran didn’t see the field.

His 2024 free-agency decision will take some more time.

I think last year was really like a learning curve for me. I got kind of itchy. At the time it was coming, the season, it was where I wanted to go. But now, for me, it’s about the opportunity’s going to come. It’s about what you’re going to do with it. For me, patience is the key, so let’s just stay ready and stay confident, it’s going to explode.

I’m gonna go earn my spot anywhere, wherever I go. So right now, for me, just kind of see how everything is going to fill out for everybody. And then you know me, I’ll just sneak up on the scene.

Dalvin Cook
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Teams will be highly skeptical if the once-explosive rusher can return to his previous heights. Running backs usually regress drastically at one point in their career, and Cook may have just hit that time.

Regardless, one team will likely take the chance. Cook will turn 29 in August.

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