How Badly Do the Vikings Need an RB?

falcons tilt
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When the Minnesota Vikings brought Alexander Mattison back on a two-year deal this past offseason, the thought was that he would work as a replacement for Dalvin Cook. That hasn’t gone according to plan, and the position now is among the critical areas of concern heading into the offseason.

How Badly Do the Vikings Need an RB?

It was certainly wise for the Vikings to move on from Dalvin Cook. He would never be retained on his current cap hit, and he was unwilling to restructure. After going to the New York Jets, being used sparingly, and struggling in those spots, he is back on the open market. Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is vindicated in that decision.

How Badly Do the Vikings Need an RB?
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Going with Alexander Mattison, though, who had always looked good in a reserve role, has gone in quite the opposite direction. By the end of the season, Mattison has lost his job to second-year player Ty Chandler, and the change probably should have come much sooner. He has been among the least efficient runners across the entire NFL, and volume hasn’t helped his cause either.

After Kevin O’Connell finally decided to pull the plug on Mattison, he allowed Chandler to run with the role, and the youngster initially succeeded. Putting up Minnesota’s first 100-yard rushing game in over a year, Chandler showcased a set of tools that made him a much different runner than his backfield mate.

In the two weeks since that 132-yard outburst, things have gone less swimmingly. O’Connell all but abandoned the run against Detroit, with Chandler logging only eight carries, and game flow had the Vikings going to the air in hopes of closing the gap last week against the Green Bay Packers. Even with the clunker in the middle, the former North Carolina Tar Heels has averaged 4.61 yards per attempt across his three games as a starter. He’ll get an opportunity to rectify the Lions outing in Week 18, but his overall effectiveness remains a question mark.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota could move on from Mattison this offseason but would incur a dead cap hit of $4 million. How they upgrade the position remains to be seen, but some talent must be infused. Chandler can probably be the guy going forward, but that remains a dicey proposition at best. DeWayne McBride sits on the practice squad after being a late-round pick this past draft, and Kene Nwangwu has continued to prove he is useful only in the return game.

It has never been O’Connell’s desire to run the football, which is a more progressive way of playing the game now. However, having some semblance of a running game will be necessary, and even more so if veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t re-signed. Asking a first-round rookie to step in almost immediately with such an unbalanced offense is likely to be a disaster, and the roster currently doesn’t present the answers the team needs.

Good Call
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) tosses the ball to running back DeWayne McBride (37) as they face the Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Here’s to hoping that Chandler can put up a nice effort in Week 18 at Ford Field to grab a more firm hold of the role going into the offseason, but it’s time to think of contingency plans in the backfield.

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.