In the days leading up to 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, vikings.com will take a position-by-position preview of the roster.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman knows he has the best running back in the NFL and, heading into the offseason, he knew that player would be in the fold for the following season. So did Spielman neglect the position during the offseason? Nope. He worked with the coaching and scouting staffs to make it stronger.
Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher since he entered the League in 2007, returns for his eighth season this year. At 29 years of age, Peterson is approaching the dreaded 30-year old age threshold, but it’s quite clear he is far from slowing down. He will enter this year’s training camp with an eye on another 1,200-yard double-digit touchdown campaign, something he’s done every season but one during his career; and he’s never had fewer than 10 touchdowns in a season.
Behind Peterson, the Vikings have an eclectic group of runners who will be asked to fill a variety of roles. If you have the best running back in the NFL and you plan to feature the running game prominently, it only makes sense to have a good backup plan behind your superstar. With Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams on the depth chart, the Vikings have candidates on-hand to compete for the opportunity to play this role. Asiata may be the leader of this group, as last season he scored three touchdowns to help beat Philadelphia and just two weeks later he ran for 115 yards on 14 carries in a victory over the Lions. Banyard returns from last year’s team and is a skilled receiver out of the backfield and Williams is an undrafted rookie.
No, Jerick McKinnon was left out of the group above. His skill set and, likely, offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s plan for him, puts McKinnon in his own group. McKinnon, who played quarterback, receiver and running back at Georgia Southern, was selected by the Vikings in the third round this past May. In his first season, he may not be equipped to be a bellcow-kind of back who can shoulder the full load of 20 carries in a game should Peterson become unavailable. But he can contribute to the offense immediately given his versatile skill set and ability in open space. Turner has had a weapon like McKinnon in many of his previous NFL stops (think: Sproles, Darren), so it’ll be interesting to see if McKinnon truly does play this role for Turner in Minnesota.
Also included in this group of players are fullbacks Jerome Felton and Zach Line. Just how Turner plans to use the fullback in his Minnesota offense remains to be seen. But however Turner chooses to do so, he has a couple of great options. Jerome Felton is a Pro Bowler and has led the way for Peterson in the past, while Zach Line also led the way for Peterson in Felton’s stead to begin last season and also has some niftiness to him in the event Turner wants to use him as a runner, too.
When it comes to the Vikings running back position, the focus is (rightfully) on Peterson. But behind him, the Vikings have a dynamic group that can provide Turner with a variety of skill sets to support and perhaps even drive offensive production.
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