Spielman Provides Updates on Dalvin Cook, Explains Gains in Run Game

Posted Feb 28, 2018

The Vikings improved their rush yards by more than 750 in 2017, going from 32nd in the NFL with 1,205 all the way to seventh with 1,957.

Minnesota signed Latavius Murray during free agency in 2016, despite knowing that he would need surgery last spring, and then drafted Dalvin Cook in the second round after an aggressive trade.

Cook dazzled immediately, averaging 4.8 yards per carry in three-plus games before suffering a torn ACL against Detroit.

After the rookie went down, Minnesota primarily turned to the combination of Murray and Jerick McKinnon, blending their contrasting sizes and styles to force defenses to prepare for two types of running backs.

With Cook continuing his rehab, Murray remaining under contract and McKinnon’s contract set to expire, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was asked about the Vikings running back situation during media sessions at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

Spielman said Cook, who was injured on Oct. 1, is participating in on-field rehabilitation exercises in Minnesota.

“We’re very excited about the progress that he’s making and anxious to see where we are with him back in the fold, along with whatever combination is there,” Spielman said.

The general manager credited Murray, McKinnon and Vikings coaches for the response after Cook’s injury. He noted that Murray led the Vikings with 16 runs of at least 12 yards and performed well in multiple situations, from short-yardage carries to pass protection.

Murray had two or more runs of 12-plus yards in six of Minnesota’s final 10 games. Ten were in home games, and six were on the road. He also was 6-for-6 on third-and-1 runs, helping the Vikings total 10 conversions on 11 third-and-1 rush attempts.

“Latavius did a good job for us last year; he led our team in explosive runs once Dalvin got hurt,” Spielman said. “We had much better success when we were in goal-line situations. I know that was an area we needed to improve. That was a combination of him and the offensive line that we redid last year. That made a significant difference in our success last year.”

The Vikings scored touchdowns on 77.4 percent of their goal-to-go situations in 2017 (ninth in NFL), which was up from 61.5 percent in 2016 (26th in NFL).

Spielman said he believes there is a substantial benefit to having running backs with different attributes.

“When you have the ability to have different types of backs on your roster, it also gives the defense a little bit more to game plan for,” Spielman said. “The coaching staff can be a little bit more creative on how they use those backs in certain situations. So I don’t know if you want to have three of the same kind, but if you can have different types of running backs, I think it’s a little more difficult to defend.”