Sunday’s Game Is a Big One for Alexander Mattison

Alexander Mattison
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings emphasized the running attack in the offseason, but they somehow got worse in that area despite having a better offensive line. Dalvin Cook was released, but with re-signing Alexander Mattison, the decision-makers were optimistic that they had the right guy to lead a backfield committee. Well, that has been a disaster.

Sunday’s Game Is a Big One for Alexander Mattison

Game Is a Big One for Alexander Mattison
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Mattison was supposed to lead the backfield with some help from Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. The Vikes added Cam Akers to the mix two games into the season, whose role slowly increased until he ruptured his Achilles. That led to Chandler’s emergence out of sheer need, but the coaches seemingly didn’t fully trust him.

And Chandler did a marvelous job during Mattison’s one-game absence, rushing for 132 yards in Cincinnati, the highest total of Minnesota’s runners since Week 10 of last season. He has been the starter ever since, despite Mattison’s return from his ankle injury.

Injury Report Turns
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Through 15 games, Mattison has rushed for 676 yards but failed to reach the endzone. The most important thing for him leading up to the final game, however, is the yardage total, as he needs to reach 750 in the season to earn another paycheck of $250,000.

When the Vikings signed him to a two-year $7 million contract in March, they added $1 million via incentives. Reaching 1,000 rushing yards in the season would make him another $250,000, but that milestone has never been in danger.

But there’s a problem. Chandler has taken over the starting role, and unless Mattison gets a bunch of carries, he won’t reach his goal of 74 yards, a number he has only outperformed three times this season.

Monitor Key Offensive
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Sometimes, a coaching staff helps their players get the necessary numbers, but the next concern arrives. The Vikings still have a chance to make the postseason, so they will undoubtedly feature the runner they think gives them the best opportunity to move the ball. And in the last two games, Chandler was that guy when both of them were active.

In addition, Mattison hasn’t done enough to earn the force-feed treatment to make some extra cash that a guy like Justin Jefferson would probably get. Danielle Hunter, the four-time Pro Bowl edge-rusher, met his sack incentive a few weeks ago.

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The good news for Mattison is that his 2024 salary is mostly guaranteed, making it inefficient to release him, although that would’ve been a serious consideration if it wasn’t.

Regardless of Chandler’s and Mattison’s status going forward, the Vikings must invest in the draft to improve the running back room. While the position has been highly devalued, selecting a runner every four or five seasons on day two of the draft is not a bad investment.

Mattison will turn 26 in June and couldn’t fulfill the lead-back role, but he has a long track record as a decent backup. The Vikings should look to demote him to that role in the upcoming 2024 campaign.

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