Every week, analytics site Pro Football Focus releases its “20 PFF Stats to Know” article based on performances up to this point.
PFF’s Ben Cooper on Thursday unveiled the notable stats heading into Week 4; one highlighted the Vikings running back with a headline that reads “Dalvin Cook has been a cheat code through three weeks.” Cooper wrote:
Not only is Dalvin Cook tied for the lead among running backs with 15 missed tackles forced on rushes, but he’s also churning through contact at an imposing rate. His 4.09 yards after contact per attempt on both runs and receptions ranks third among running backs with at least 30 combined. As a result, his 91.0 overall grade is tops at his position.
Another stat that could possibly affect Minnesota revolved around the Giants, whom the Vikings will face next weekend. Cooper pointed out that having second-year running back Saquon Barkley sidelined could significantly impact New York’s run game.
Believe it or not, the Giants lead the league in explosive run-play rate through three weeks, with 21.4 [percent] of their attempts going for 10 or more yards. And perhaps a bit more believable, Saquon Barkley accounted for 75 [percent] of those runs before going down with what is expected to be a multi-week injury. [Quarterback] Daniel Jones could continue to impress, but the New York rushing attack will almost certainly be less potent moving forward.
Mizutani evaluates run-blocking role of Vikings receivers
The Vikings have racked up the rushing yards through three games, and success on the ground has dictated fewer plays through the air.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph acknowledged earlier this week that it’s the identity of the 2019 Minnesota offense.
“That’s what we talked about this entire offseason. That’s the kind of offense that [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer wants to have; that’s the kind of mentality that we’ve had success with in the past,” Rudolph said. “We run the football, we play good defense, we change field position on special teams, and we win games in the fourth quarter.”
Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press pointed out the difference in stat sheets for Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at this point in the season versus a year ago. He wrote:
Through three games, Thielen has 11 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns, far off last year’s pace. Diggs has six catches for 101 yards and one touchdown. The two have spent a lot of time as downfield run-blockers for running back Dalvin Cook, finally healthy in his third season and emerging as the early face of Minnesota’s offense.
And that’s OK. For now, anyway.
View practice photos from Sept. 26 as the Vikings get ready for the Bears in a road matchup at Soldier Field.
Mizutani quoted Thielen, who spoke with Twin Cities media members on Thursday.
“It would be great to get more opportunities to help this offense move the ball and ultimately help this team win,” Thielen said. “That said, when we don’t need to, then that’s great for us.
“If we have Dalvin running the ball, and our offensive line is blocking that way, and we’re able to win games, let’s just keep going to what works and what helps us win,” he added.
Thielen has learned there are other ways he can make an impact: continuing to block downfield, no matter what. As [Rudolph] put it after last weekend’s win over the Oakland Raiders, even when it seems like Cook should be down, he usually isn’t.
The added appreciation for blocking downfield mostly stems from watching game film. Nobody wants to be the reason a potential long touchdown run doesn’t come to fruition.
Even with the efficient run game, Mizutani anticipates that Thielen and Diggs “will have to be impact players at some point. He opined:
It’s only a matter of time before opposing teams start to stack the box, selling out to stop Cook, which should open up one-on-one matchups on the outside.