Vikings Reset Backfield with Ideal Tandem

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) tosses the ball in the stands after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the wild card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, January 14, 2024 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings’ running game simply didn’t work. They went into the year poorly positioned, and by the end of it, they were on their last option. This time around, that would be unexpected. Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler have a chance to be a tandem the franchise hasn’t seen in years.

Vikings RBs: Backfield Reset with Ideal Tandem

When Dalvin Cook was jettisoned before last season, it was because he got expensive and was clearly on a downward trend. Kevin O’Connell didn’t fully utilize him in 2022, and the production had slipped as it does for aging running backs. The decision proved fruitful when considering his exploits with the New York Jets, but that doesn’t mean turning it over to Alexander Mattison was correct, either.

Vikings RBs
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The former backup, who thrived in a change-of-pace role, struggled as the starter. He didn’t hit opened holes explosively, and he wasn’t a dual threat in the vein of Cook. Immediately after Cam Akers was acquired, it was clear there was a better fit, and Ty Chandler looked the part of a natural when finally forcing the hand of the staff as well.

Jones is the latest Green Bay Packer to come to Minnesota, and plenty of them have worked out. Brett Favre was a success, and so was Za’Darius Smith, most recently. If a scorned athlete is something of a motivator, well, then the Vikings will take it. Jones doesn’t need the bulletin board material, though, as he’s well-accomplished and a good back, regardless.

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The problem for the former Packer has been availability. He played just 11 games last year and has played a full season only twice during his career. That may be a positive regarding the lack of mileage on his legs, but the durability is something Minnesota needs immediately, not in the future. When on the field, Jones has averaged 5.0 yards per carry, and that’s a significant step up from what they were given a year ago. He’s a bellcow that pairs nicely with someone like Chandler and could bring the room as a whole to heights not seen while Cook was starting.

Chandler’s biggest detractor last season was a lack of ability during pass protection. Jones has handled plenty of that as a starter, and having a spry runner behind him represents a nice one-two punch. Jones can also hold his own as a receiver, and while that’s something that Chandler should be considered adept in, the pair bringing that to the table is a bonus. The offense might not be as pass-heavy, having either Sam Darnold or a rookie under center, but the checkdown option always available is a nice bonus.

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Asking Chandler to be the unquestioned starter in a thin room would have been repeating last season’s mistakes. Instead, the Vikings get a guy looking to keep the good times rolling, and if he can remain healthy, he’ll put it on display during the same divisional opponents six times a season.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has handled free agency well this cycle, and Jones is just a piece of that puzzle.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.