One Viking Posted a Catastrophic Statline in 2023

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It was supposed to be his breakout season. When the Vikings released Dalvin Cook to save a big junk of cap space, they appointed his longtime backup, Alexander Mattison, as his successor. He did a fine job as a change-of-pace runner in previous years, but playing the role of a featured back is a different story, and folks have realized this in the last few months.

One Viking Posted a Catastrophic Statline in 2023

One Viking Posted a Catastrophic Statline in 2023
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When his four-year rookie contract expired, not many expected the rusher to return to the franchise that drafted him in the third round of the 2019 draft. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah still did it, signing him to a lucrative contract for a running back in the modern NFL economics. It was a two-year deal for $7 million, with $6.35 million guaranteed.

Reaching 750 rushing yards can give him an additional $250,000 per season. An easy number to reach for a starting running back in the NFL. Cook eclipsed 1,100 yards on the ground in four straight seasons with the Vikings, and even though Mattison is an inferior player, that bonus should be within reach.

Well, he didn’t make it, finishing with only 700 rushing yards on 190 carries, a pretty bad output for a running back whose competition was trade acquisition Cam Akers, who got hurt once he had a serious role, and Ty Chandler who the coaching staff didn’t seem to trust for the majority of the season.

Running Game
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Suffering an injury that forced him to miss the contest in Cincinnati, followed by Chandler’s emergence as the lead back, also didn’t help him put up any more stats. However, he also failed to reach the endzone on the ground, a pathetic fact for a player who found paydirt year after year as a backup.

Thirteen players in NFL history have had more rushing attempts in a single season without scoring a touchdown, but only three have since 2000.

Historic numbers like that can’t be explained other than that the player struggled to do his job. Regardless of the circumstances, he should’ve scored at some point, either on a goalline carry or by recording an explosive play. Those big plays have never been his strength, but then he should be able to power his way into the endzone on an attempt near the goal line.

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And it is absolutely wild to believe, after seeing the touchdown total, that Mattison had the opportunity for goalline touchdowns. He had nine carries inside the opponent’s five-yard line and lost a total of seven yards, failing to score. Meanwhile, Chandler had three such opportunities, gained five yards, and scored on each one.

Now, is that exclusively Mattison’s fault? Probably not. The blockers have to do their jobs, and Chandler’s assignment might have been a little easier on his carries. Still, it is a terrible look, especially because he wasn’t particularly effective in general.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the veteran ranked 35th of 49 running backs with at least 90 carries in rushing yards over expected, a statistic that factors in blocking, and his Pro Football Focus grade was 61.8, ranking him 55th of 63 eligible running backs. Mattison tabulated a subpar 3.9 yards per carry.

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It was, overall, a disappointing season for the running back. There is a good chance he will remain with the Vikings because of his contract structure (a release would trigger a dead cap hit of $4 million), but it would be foolish to hand him the starting role next season.

Unless he is surprisingly released, Mattison will return just like Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. Practice squad players DeWayne McBride and Myles Gaskin signed future contracts. Cam Akers is an unrestricted free agent.

The Vikings must add some talent to the running back room in the draft or free agency.

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