Four Vikings players took part in the Pro Bowl game hosted in Orlando, Fla.
As the Vikings offseason is underway, evaluations are in progress of the 2018 season and performances of each player and position group.
Matthew Coller of SKOR North is also looking up close at each position group in an article series, asking the following questions: “What worked? What didn’t work? What might change in 2019? What are the best- and worst-case scenarios? What options do they have moving forward?”
Recently, Coller delved into the Vikings running backs room and focused mainly on Dalvin Cook, who returned in 2018 from the torn ACL he suffered in his rookie campaign but missed additional time with a hamstring injury. Coller wrote:
Despite struggles on the offensive line, Cook made the most of his opportunities. He gained 4.6 yards per carry on 133 rushes and caught 40 passes on 49 targets at 7.6 yards per reception.
He averaged 5.0 yards per rush on first down and was tremendously successful running out of the shotgun, gaining 6.4 yards per carry on 39 runs.
The former Florida State star saw an increase in workload after Kevin Stefanski took over as offensive coordinator, gaining 248 yards in three games at 5.4 yards per carry.
Coller reminded that Cook missed time but opined that he was “vastly underutilized at times” when healthy, pointing out that he surpassed 15 carries in a game only once (Week 1 against the 49ers) prior to Stefanski taking over as interim offensive coordinator.
Coller expects “lots” to change in Minnesota’s running game under Stefanski as offensive coordinator and newly hired Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak.
The sheer number of touches by the Vikings No. 1 back is likely to jump exponentially. The top running backs in the league like Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Christian McCaffrey are getting more than 20 touches per game, whereas Cook saw 15.7 per game in 2018.
Using Cook’s full skillset should be a priority. With his terrific receiving ability, the Vikings should be aiming to get him in the range of 60-80 targets. While improving the screen game should be a top priority, it would also make sense to give Cook some downfield throws like we have seen to the likes of James White, Tarik Cohen and Gurley.
According to Coller, the best-case scenario for Cook in 2019 would be staying healthy and becoming “the centerpiece of the Vikings offense.”
View the best exclusive images shot by team photographers of Vikings running backs during the 2018 season.
Daniel Jeremiah tabs 5 Senior Bowl standouts
After each day of Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Alabama, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah highlighted his standout athletes of the session. He evaluated once more over the weekend, tabbing five players who shined during Saturday’s game.
Jeremiah started with a pair of quarterbacks, Duke’s Daniel Jones and N.C. State’s Ryan Finley. He wrote:
The Raiders coaching staff, which coached Jones' North squad, did a good job of getting him on the move when he started the second half. That helped him get into a rhythm, which was good to see. There was a lot of pressure on him going into the game after an uneven week of practice, and I thought he rose to the occasion on Saturday.
Finley was probably the most consistent and effective of the quarterbacks today. […] He was accurate, poised and made good decisions.
Jeremiah opined that Finley “had the cleanest game” among Senior Bowl quarterbacks despite not having “a huge arm.”
Next, Jeremiah looked at Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, who became a first-time father during the week of Senior Bowl. Saunders notched the game’s first sack and, according to Jeremiah, showed his quickness and was disruptive. Jeremiah said that Saunders reminded him of “the way Antwaun Woods played for the Dallas Cowboys” in 2018 and said he could “envision Saunders doing similar things at the next level.”
U Mass receiver Andy Isabella also impressed after being “a little disappointing in practice.”
But like his North squad teammate Jones, he saved his best for last, leading all receivers with seven catches for 74 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. He was good after the catch, putting his toughness on display. The team that drafts him is going to love using him on fly sweeps and bubble screens – just get the ball in his hands and watch him go.
Lastly, Jeremiah highlighted Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu.
Some of his big plays were made off of effort and just not quitting on the play. He’s not a finished product, but there’s a lot to work with, and he helped himself in Mobile.
Vikings Legend Esera Tuaolo heading panel discussion during week of Super Bowl LIII
Former Vikings defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo, who spent five of his nine NFL seasons in Minnesota, will be part of a panel discussion in Atlanta at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Forbes contributor Jerry Barca wrote that Tuaolo is partnering with his foundation, Hate is Wrong, for the event that is being sponsored by the Vikings. Barca wrote:
The first panel will examine efforts made by athletes, sports businesses and non-profits to create LGBTQ inclusive spaces in professional sports. Panelists scheduled to participate are [President of Adidas North America] Zion Armstrong, Olympic gold medalist diver Greg Louganis and Tuaolo.
The second panel has an NFL focus. It will look at what the league, its teams and the media can do to make the NFL a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ people. The scheduled speakers on that panel include front office brass such as Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli and Minnesota Vikings [Vice President of Legal & Social Impact Karin Nelsen]. The NFL’s first openly gay coach, San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers, is also scheduled to be there, as well as NBC Sports' Peter King.