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Lunchbreak: Cook ‘Vaults’ to Top 5 of Maurice Jones-Drew’s RB Rankings

Through two games, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has racked up 265 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Fans are getting a glimpse of a healthy Cook, and it’s reminiscent of his hot start as a rookie in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL in Week 4.

Cook is once again drumming up attention across the league, including from three-time Pro Bowler and running-back-turned-analyst Maurice Jones-Drew.

In his running back rankings heading into Week 3, Jones-Drew slotted Cook at No. 4, jumping up three spots from his placement ahead of last Sunday’s Border Battle. Jones-Drew wrote:

Cook had another stellar performance in Week 2 and now leads the league in rushing yards, which is why he vaults into the top five of this list.

Ahead of Cook on Jones-Drew’s list (from Nos. 3-1) were Le’Veon Bell, who has 128 rushing yards and 93 receiving yards for the Jets; Ezekiel Elliott, who has 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns; and Saquon Barkley, who has 227 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Giants.

The Vikings will face Elliott in Week 10 and Barkley in Week 5. Jones-Drew said the following of Barkley, who last year was named the 2018 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.

No matter how much the Giants struggle, Barkley never seems to have a really bad game. With his 27-yard touchdown run on the Giants first drive, the second-year running back tied a franchise record with Odell Beckham, Jr., for most TDs (16) in his first 18 games.

Ranked behind Cook were Christian McCaffrey (Panthers), Todd Gurley II (Rams), Alvin Kamara (Saints), Derrick Henry (Titans), Nick Chubb (Browns), Marlon Mack (Colts), Chris Carson (Seahawks), Mark Ingram (Ravens), Aaron Jones (Packers), Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Austin Ekeler (Chargers).

Vikings defense aiming for faster start moving forward

Minnesota’s defense got off to a sluggish start at Green Bay before clamping down and stalling the Packers for the remainder of the afternoon.

Will Ragatz, who writes for Sports Illustrated’s Viking Maven platform, delved into the defense’s Week 2 performance and the unit’s focus on improvement. Ragatz wrote:

It’s a group that is frustrated with the way it played early in the game, even if it completely flipped the switch after the first quarter.

Ragatz quoted Vikings safeties Harrison Smith, who emphasized Monday that “there’s no warm-up period,” and Anthony Harris, who said that players “individually took turns not really executing.”

Smith agrees that the issues can be traced to execution and not “playing how we're coached to play.” In his Monday press conference, [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer attributed the slow start to mistakes on the back end and in the running game. “We’ll get that fixed,” he said.

The encouraging thing for the Vikings is that they didn’t have to wait until this week of practice to fix their defensive struggles. They did so during the game.

The Vikings held the Packers scoreless on their final 11 possessions and limited Green Bay to a 2-for-12 showing on third downs after giving up conversions on the first three.

It was, for almost a full three quarters, a nearly flawless performance that showed how terrifying this defense can be when everything is clicking.

“At the end of the day, we lost,” Smith said. “We start faster, we’ve got a better chance. That’s all that matters.”

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