Last week, we took a look at the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback situation.
By Jordan Wright
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This week we take a look at the running back depth chart. For most of the past decade, the Vikings have had the luxury of the best running back in the NFL lining up in the back field. Is that still the case this year? Do the Vikings have a backup who is capable of taking some of the load off Adrian Peterson?
Last season, Adrian ran for a league leading 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding 30 catches for 222 yards. For just the fourth time in his nine year career, Adrian was able to play in all 16 games of the regular season. Once again, the football world was reminded that Adrian is a rare athlete who can break a long run from anywhere on the field and at any point in the game.
However, leading the NFL in rushing yards came at a price. Adrian totaled 350 carries in the regular season and playoffs. When you total up the amount of carries and passes thrown his way, Adrian has been involved in 2,831 plays throughout his career. All those hits add up, as the human body can only take so much.
Jerick McKinnon is a player the Vikings are hoping is able to take some of the carries away from Peterson. McKinnon was second on the team with 52 carries for 271 yards, as well as 21 receptions for 173 yards and three total touchdowns in 2015. Jerick was able to increase his yards per carry from 4.8 his rookie year to 5.2 last year. The Vikings are hoping he can make a similar leap in year three.
Matt Asiata split the backup duties with McKinnon last season after starting 9 of the 15 games in 2014 that Peterson was unavailable. Asiata only carried the ball 29 times for 112 yards in 2015, but proved to be valuable as a check down for Bridgewater, catching 19 passes for 132 yards.
Jhurell Pressley is an undrafted rookie out of New Mexico. Pressley is a smaller running back (5’10”, 206 pounds) who has speed but limited power. Last season for the Lobos, he ran for 1,083 yards on only 114 carries for an absurd 9.5 yards per carry.
The only other running back listed on the Vikings website is C.J. Ham, an undrafted rookie from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. There isn’t a lot of information available on Ham besides his stats (1,097 yards and 16 touchdowns) and his measurable (6’1”, 238 pounds).
Starter: Adrian Peterson
Call me crazy, but I’m predicting it now: Adrian Peterson will be the starting running back for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. Even at 31 years of age, Peterson will resume his quest to be the best running back to ever have played the game. Even though he claims he can play until he is 40 years old, it’s clear there aren’t many years left of watching this future hall of famer. Enjoy it while you can.
Backups: Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata
Jerick is an excellent change-of-pace running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield or run it between the tackles. Hopefully McKinnon will be able to steal some carries from Adrian, keeping them both fresh for a (hopefully) long playoff run.
While Jerick is the change-of-pace back, Asiata is the one who would start were something to happen to Adrian (as we saw in 2014), presumably because the coaches have an enormous amount of trust in him. Entering his fifth season, Asiata is what he is at this point. If you need three yards, he’ll get you three and a half. If you need four yards, he’ll get you three and a half.
On the bubble: Jhurell Pressley and C.J. Ham
Unless an injury occurs, the depth chart is basically set. However, there is always a chance one of the undrafted rookies can step up and make the team. Pressley might be a good candidate for the practice squad.
This team has an excellent defense and a young quarterback, but Adrian is still the face of the franchise. Even though he is 31, Peterson will be keeping defensive coordinators up at night in 2016. Meanwhile, McKinnon is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. The Vikings are loaded at running back, just like it has been every year since Adrian was drafted in 2007.
Next week we will be taking a look at the wide receiver position. If you have anything specific you’d like to know about them, or if you have any comments or questions about the quarterbacks, reach out to me. E-mail: email@example.com, Facebook: facebook.com/ skoljwright, or Twitter: @ skoljwright