Running back Dalvin Cook appears to be the key to success in 2019 for the Vikings. Minnesota’s blueprint on offense became clear in Sunday’s win over the Falcons.
It was less than two years when the Minnesota Vikings made Kirk Cousins the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL (at the time), with the rationale that their new signal caller would take them over the hump after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 NFC Championship game just three months earlier.
But don’t think for a second that the Vikings and head coach Mike Zimmer want all the pressure to fall on Cousins’ shoulders.
That’s why, after a disappointing 8-7-1 finish last season, general manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings’ front office brought former Super Bowl-winning head coach Gary Kubiak onto the coaching staff for 2019.
Kubiak, whose official title falls under ‘Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor’, was only one part of the equation, though. The next step was drafting center Garrett Bradbury in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and solidfying the offensive line in free agency. The final step was getting a healthy Dalvin Cook involved in the running game.
Kubiak’s implementation of an outside zone-blocking running scheme as the staple of the Vikings’ offense was one of the biggest talking points this past offseason. With a healthy Cook, and an anchor in the middle of the offensive line in Bradberry, the Vikings running game was poised for success.
Everything came to fruition in Minnesota’s convincing defeat over the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s 28-12 victory. The trio of Kubiak, Bradberry and Cook (along with an all-around improved Vikings’ offensive line) form the blueprint for success on offense in 2019.
Cook rushed 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Cook’s backup, rookie third-rounder Alexander Mattison, rushed nine times for 49 yards. Even Ameer Abdullah had two rushing attempts for eight yards.
In total, Vikings’ running backs logged 32 rushing attempts for 168 yards, good for a healthy 5.25 yards per attempt. Perhaps most notably, though, was that Cousins only threw the ball 10 times. He finished 8-of-10 for 98 passing yards and one touchdown.
“Throwing 10 times is really unique,” Cousins told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. “Probably haven’t had a game with that few attempts since literally Pop Warner.” The Vikings’ coaching staff may not have predicted such a performance from the running game, but they now have the key to success going forward.
“I did not foresee us throwing it 10 times today but I’m glad we did,” said coach Zimmer. Even receiver Adam Thielen called the running game the “strength” of the Vikings’ offense, and that he sees Cook as arguably the best running back in the NFL.
Then there’s Cook himself, who appears to be fully embracing his role in the new offense. “When I’m on the field, a lot of special things can happen. I just got to stay on the field. That’s the main goal, just being available for my team to help win football games.”
The Vikings will certainly have to throw more than 10 times a game to keep winning, but if the offense continues to run through Cook, it may not even matter.