Lunch Break

Print
RSS

Lunchbreak: Vikings Have Forged Historical Turnaround in Run Game

Posted Dec 7, 2017

The Vikings offense currently ranks sixth in the NFL with 1,474 total rushing yards.

But with four games left in the season, Minnesota has already eclipsed last year’s total of 1,205 rushing yards as a team.

Being a top-10 rushing team is one of many reasons that Vikings sit at 10-2 and can clinch the NFC North with a win Sunday in Carolina.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune took a look at the Vikings resurgent run game and noted it’s been nearly 25 years since such an improvement occurred.

Krammer wrote:

Minnesota’s turnaround in the running game — from dead last in 2016 to sixth this season (122.8 yards per game) — is not only impressive, it’s historical.

Not since Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk was drafted by the Colts in 1994 has an NFL team gone from the league’s worst run game to the top 10.

“It all starts with the run game,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “That’s part of the reason why our downfield passing game is better. You don’t have a run game, and you’re one-dimensional, it’s hard to do anything.”

Latavius Murray leads the Vikings with 572 rushing yards and five touchdowns and has come on strong over the past six games.

Jerick McKinnon has 414 rushing yards and a career-high three scores on the ground.

And rookie Dalvin Cook, who was lost for the season in Week 4 with a torn ACL, totaled 354 rushing yards in three-plus games to go along with two rushing touchdowns.

The last time the Vikings finished in the top five in rushing coincided with their last division title. Both happened in 2015.

Rhodes recognized by NFC North rival

Xavier Rhodes receives plenty of praise from teammates and coaches for his lockdown style of play in the secondary.

But the Vikings cornerback recently received praise from an opponent, and one of his team’s top rivals.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams wrote a piece for The Players Tribune titled ‘The 5 Toughest Corners I’ve Ever Faced,’ and included Rhodes on his list.

Adams wrote:

I play against Xavier twice a year, and I have a lot of respect for his game. Like [Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson], he’s just a physical specimen. He’s not as good as Pat at change of direction, but he has elite speed and he’s really strong. He’s great at using his hands to reroute you — disrupting the timing of your route and getting you out of your rhythm. So if he gets a hand on you at any point, you’re in trouble.

Adams wrote about Rhodes and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in the same spot because both players excel at being physical against opposing wide receivers.

He noted that Rhodes and Sherman routinely do a great job of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage to throw them off their route.

I don’t work up the middle on Xavier and Sherman. They’re looking to engage me and get their hands on me, so I don’t attack them. Before the snap, I have my head turned inside looking at the ball, but I keep one eye on the corner. And once the ball is snapped, I look at the corner’s shoulders. If they’re coming down, that means he’s leaning forward and I know the lunge is coming, so maybe I’ll sink back or pause at the line to keep that two or three feet of separation. This makes it more difficult for him to really connect on the super jam.

But when you get guys like Xavier and Sherman you have to change your whole game up because they’re so strong and physical, and they also have the confidence in their speed and other abilities to get up on you and stay on you. Because once they jump on you, no matter how big or strong you are, it’s going to be tough to shake them.

Adams has 21 catches for 235 yards and three scores in seven career games against the Vikings.