EAGAN, Minn. — Whether it was due to injuries, inconsistent play or a lack of opportunities, the Vikings ground game endured some tough sledding in 2018.
From a big-picture perspective, Minnesota averaged 93.3 rushing yards per game, which ranked 30th overall in the NFL.
The Vikings tallied five games with at least 100 rushing yards, which was the second-fewest in the league (Arizona had just three games with at least 100 rushing yards).
Minnesota entered the 2018 season with high expectations with a pair of healthy backs in Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, a duo that was expected to help lighten the load for new quarterback Kirk Cousins.
But the Vikings ran the ball just 357 times over the course of the 16-game season, which was the sixth-fewest attempts of any team.
The Vikings averaged 27.6 rushing attempts per game in the final three games when Kevin Stefanski was Minnesota’s interim offensive coordinator. That was an uptick from the 21.1 rushing attempts per game Minnesota averaged in the 13 games John DeFilippo was the offensive coordinator.
It didn’t help that Cook, who suffered a torn ACL in his rookie campaign, battled hamstring injuries for the majority of the first half of his second pro season.
Cook, who worked tirelessly all offseason to rehab from the torn ACL, suffered the hamstring injury in Week 2 against Green Bay. He missed five of the next six games, playing only 10 snaps at Los Angeles in the one game he did play during that stretch.
While the 2017 second-round pick showed flashes of brilliance when healthy, he played just 491 offensive snaps in 2018, which accounted for 46.7 percent of Minnesota’s total snaps.
Fellow running back Latavius Murray played almost the same amount, seeing the field for 461 offensive snaps (43.86 percent).
Cook and Murray each put together career-best games at different points of the season, but the tandem likely wasn’t as effective together as they probably imagined they would be at the beginning of the season.
C.J. Ham provided versatility and reliability at fullback, while Mike Boone and Roc Thomas saw limited snaps as rookies in 2018.
Minnesota added Ameer Abdullah to its roster in early November, but the former Lions running back did not record a carry, caught just one pass and was primarily used as a kick returner.
5.32 — Cook averaged 5.32 yards per touch on 173 rushing and receiving plays in 2018. He totaled 920 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2018.
Cook had missed four straight games with a hamstring injury before he made his return in Week 9 at home against the Lions. He showcased his speed and quickness late in the second quarter with a 70-yard run down to the Detroit 5-yard line. It was Minnesota’s longest rushing play of the season, and second-longest play overall, and it proved that Cook can be a home-run hitter when healthy.
133 carries for 615 yards (4.6 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns; 40 receptions for 305 yards and two touchdowns
140 carries for 578 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) with six touchdowns; 22 receptions for 141 yards
Six carries for 8 yards (1.3 yards per attempt); 11 receptions for 85 yards
11 carries for 47 yards (4.3 yards per attempt); two receptions for 1 yard
Eight carries for 30 yards (3.8 yards per attempt); two receptions for 21 yards
Zero carries in seven games; one reception for 10 yards
Best Photos of 2018: Top 30 Celebrations
View the best 30 Vikings celebration photos caught on camera from the 2018 season.
2 Highest highs
1. The Vikings made a change at offensive coordinator, then went out and had their best rushing performance of the season in Week 15 against the Dolphins.
With Kevin Stefanski calling plays, Minnesota rushed for a season-high 220 yards on a season-high 40 carries. Cook had the best game of his career with 136 yards and a pair of scores, and Murray added 68 yards and a touchdown of his own.
2. It was Murray who compiled the best game of his career in Week 6 at home against Arizona. With Cook on the shelf with a hamstring injury, Murray rushed for a career-best 155 yards and added a touchdown.
Minnesota ran for 195 total yards as a team, which was a season-best at the time. The 195 yards nearly equaled the Vikings total from the previous four games combined.
2 Lowest lows
1. A 27-0 halftime deficit didn’t help, and neither did a 17-0 hole less than 10 minutes into the game, but the Vikings ran the ball just six total times in Week 3 against the Bills.
Running backs combined for just four carries, all in the first half. Boone had two attempts for 11 yards while Murray gained one yard on two carries. Kirk Cousins gained two yards on two attempts.
2. The Vikings and Bears met in Week 11 at Soldier Field with first place on the line and the Vikings looking to establish the run.
That never happened as Minnesota ran for just 22 yards on 14 attempts, with the 1.6 average yards per carry being the Vikings worst average of the season.
Cook had 12 yards on nine attempts and fumbled in the red zone. Murray had five yards on four attempts, and Cousins had a 5-yard scramble.
Of the 14 rushing attempts the Vikings had, 10 went for two or fewer yards.
“We would be a man away, a trip away, just little things away. That is big in the NFL, just the little details that will get you over the hump. Today we took care of the little details, we ran the ball pretty good. That is what we have to do moving forward.”
— Cook after Minnesota’s Week 15 game against Miami