EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Dalvin Cook is feeling comfortable in Minnesota's offense, but the rookie is careful to avoid allowing comfort to become complacency.
The second-round draft pick has received plenty of reps with the Vikings first-team offense and started against the Bills Thursday night when both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray were listed as inactive. And while he's played well and is generally adjusting smoothly, Cook remains focused on staying grounded.
"I take it day by day, meeting by meeting, practice by practice," Cook said. "So I just live in the moment, and I enjoy it. You can't skip ahead – you still have to put the hard work in, and you can't skip that part. Once you skip that part, the job will skip you."
Part of Cook's daily work is practicing against Minnesota's defense.
After facing the likes of Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, Cook feels ready to take on any opposing team's defense.
"We get put in situations, we get put out there with one of the best defenses in the NFL," Cook said. "So just going against those guys is going to help you get better as a player and help you get mentally strong for the game."
The running back took his first NFL game in stride, saying he was "anxious but not nervous" to hit the field in his first game since Dec. 30, when he led Florida State to an Orange Bowl victory.
Cook's numbers at Buffalo weren't gaudy like in his final college game. He, however, showed versatility as both a rusher and a pass catcher, in the first three series, recording 13 rushing yards on five carries and an additional four receptions for 30 yards.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said he had positive takeaways from Cook's small sample size.
"In Dalvin's case, we tried to get him a few runs early. He caught the ball also well on a screen and then a flat route, so we saw those two elements to his game," Shurmur told Twin Cities media members Sunday. "They really didn't pressure us in protection, so we didn't get to see that live, but I'm sure we'll see that this week.
"But I thought for a first outing, it was certainly something good to build on," Shurmur continued. "There are areas he needs to improve, but it was a good start."
Cook echoed Shurmur's sentiments.
After watching the film from the Vikings 17-10 win over the Bills, he said he can find ways to improve in every area.
"I can run my routes better, I can pass [protect] better, I could press the hole better, help my o-line out," Cook said. "We keep going out there and getting better reps, getting more reps, keep attacking the defense, and the timing will come over time.
"You still have to keep doing extra, you still have to keep improving," Cook added. "But I think I'm at the right point right now, where I just can just keep taking [those steps] of being a pro."
Boosting physicality: Zimmer said on Saturday that he was impressed with the way that Cook finished runs.
"The thing I liked about him was, when it got into tight quarters, he lowered his shoulder and tried to fight for the extra couple yards," Zimmer said.
Jerick McKinnon also brought it up finishing runs and credited running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu with instilling an aggressive physicality into the group.
"Coach P has done a great job of getting into our minds how we want to establish ourselves and how we want other teams to see us," McKinnon said. "It's really rubbing off on us, finishing our runs, being more violent on our blocks and staying on them."
Instant instincts:Quarterback Case Keenum was able to connect with Stacy Coley three times on four pass attempts for 67 total yards at Buffalo. The plays included a 38-yard catch-and-run by Coley that included 24 yards after the catch, and a 24-yard reception near the sideline as Keenum extended the play.
Shurmur said he thought Coley and fellow rookie Rodney Adams were helped by instincts in their NFL debuts.
"I think the young players were out there, and they were doing a lot of things that were instinctual," Shurmur said. "I think Stacy and Rodney played hard and played fast. [Coley] ended up catching the route and then just running across the field."
Keenum completed one of two attempts to Adams for a gain of 10. Adams later scored on a 2-yard pass from Taylor Heinicke.
"I thought they did a great job," Keenum said of Coley and Adams. "For their first game out, they came out and played really hard and made some great catches and made some big plays for us, which we needed them to make."