The Minnesota Vikings said sayonara this offseason to Dalvin Cook while promoting RB2 Alexander Mattison to RB1 and drafting University of Alabama-Birmingham RB DeWayne McBride in April.
Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu also live on the depth to back up Mattison.
Vikings could have a certain system for the first time in 20 years
And don’t look now, but the vikings could have a ‘running back by committee’ for the first time in 20 years.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell recently said on Mattison’s pitch in 2023: “I feel really good about our backfield, and Alex Mattison is a huge reason for that. I think he’s proven he can, whether he stepped in there over the last couple of years , handling a really good workload and producing and also just short-term together, his ability to handle the roles and the responsibilities of that position in our offense. , so I feel good about where Alex is at.”
“Obviously the next step in his career is a little bit more consistent opportunities that we hope to give him,” O’Connell added.
So, Mattison able to end up as a bell-type halfback – but what will the team do with Chandler, Nwangwu and McBride? Roster staff suggests a committee approach.
And the Vikings last had a selection in 2003 – two decades ago. It has been 20 years since Minnesota featured three or more running backs with 300+ rushing yards in the same season. In 2003, these men were:
- Moe Williams (745 rushing yards | 174 carries)
- Ontario Smith (579 rushing yards | 107 carries)
- Michael Bennett (447 rushing yards | 90 carries)
How did it happen, the absence of a RB committee for 20 years? It’s actually quite simple. The Vikings leaned on Mewelde Moore for a few seasons after 2003, remained a pass-first organization with Daunte Culpepper at QB1, then drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007. Peterson charted a Hall of Fame path from 2007 to 2016 for the Vikings and has not even expressly retired from the NFL as of June 2023.
Then, after Peterson floundered for the New Orleans Saints in 2017, Minnesota drafted Dalvin Cook and he took on RB1 duties for six years.
It’s been the Peterson and Cook show in Minnseota since 2007 – if that can be believed.
But the Vikings hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah 17 months ago, taking over for Rick Spielman, who ironically was hired around the start of the Peterson era. Unlike Spielman, Adofo-Mensah isn’t really a ‘let’s use a bell RB’ type of football thinker. The Vikings are significantly more likely to evolve into a RB-by-committe franchise and come with modern times than to remain with the bell method. Outside of players like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Bijan Robinson, bellcow RB stories live on in NFL obituaries.
No further evidence is needed; look at the Vikings depth chart. Mattison, Chandler, Nwangwu and McBride fill the RB space – all on affordable deals.
If Vikings football feels strange on offense in September, it may be because a running back committee has returned for the first time since the Mike Tice era.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube channel, VikesNu. He is hosting a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Krydderi. His Viking obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’, Basset Hounds and The Doors (band).