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Latavius Murray Ready for Increased Workload

Posted Oct 6, 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings won’t be able to turn to Dalvin Cook any more this season.

Despite physical and running-style differences between Cook (a 5-foot-10, 210-pound rookie) and Latavius Murray (6-3, 230-pound), the veteran who joined Minnesota this offseason wants coaches to be able to keep the playbook open.

“As a running back, you want that because you don’t want them to feel there’s things that we can no longer do,” Murray said Friday. “Our mentality is the same, so there’s no difference. The fact that he’s out, the plays we still want to run, we’ll run.”

The 2017 workload for Murray and Jerick McKinnon is likely to increase starting Monday when Minnesota (2-2) visits Chicago (1-3).

Both have been used somewhat sparingly so far in part because of how well Cook was playing. He rushed 74 times for 354 yards with two scores and caught 11 passes for 90 yards.

Murray, meanwhile, has rushed 14 times for 38 yards and caught two passes for eight yards. McKinnon has rushed 10 times for 26 yards and added eight receptions for 40 yards.

“I think for both of us, it’s going to increase,” Murray said. “We haven’t played [much] yet, but we’ll both get opportunities, so it’s going to be up to me to make the most out of mine. I’m sure Jerick feels the same about his.”

In four seasons (45 regular-season games) with Oakland, Murray had 10 or more carries in 31 games and more than 15 carries in 19 games. He rushed 15 times for 49 yards against Chicago in his only previous game against the Bears (Oct. 4, 2015).

Murray spent much of the offseason rehabbing an ankle injury that required surgery. His longest gain of the year so far is a rush for five yards, but Murray has had 19 career games with at least one run of 15 or more yards, highlighted by a 90-yard touchdown in 2014.

“I want to try and make more people miss, try and turn some of those shorter gains into longer gains,” Murray said. “Whatever that may be, the reads or making a guy miss, just do whatever I can to extend the runs a little longer or turn them into explosive [plays].

“I think you get a feel for the game with the more carries you get during the game,” Murray continued. “I think that will definitely help. You kind of get in a rhythm. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t help. Hopefully, as that rhythm gets going, you find your groove and get accustomed to what the defense is trying to do. You study them to try and get ahead of that, but once you get in there, I think you get that rhythm and make guys miss or finding the seam and hitting it. Again, trying to get those explosives that I really want to hit.”

In addition to Murray and McKinnon, the Vikings have fullback C.J. Ham and just signed veteran free agent Stevan Ridley on Thursday.

One thing that could help the Vikings run game is the successes that Minnesota has had in the passing game.

Stefon Diggs entered Week 5 ranked first in the NFL with 391 receiving yards, and Adam Thielen was third with 358.

Diggs said the Vikings benefitted from establishing the run early and want to maintain effectiveness.

“I have 100 percent confidence in the guys that we’ve got, as far as how I feel,” Diggs said. “Particularly, it doesn’t really matter how I feel. But I have faith in [Murray], I think he’s going to do a great job back there. We brought him here for a reason; he obviously can play. So I believe in him.

“We’ve got some good running backs, and I think we’re going to get the job done as far as running the ball. I’m just going to do my job blocking,” Diggs added.