With Toby Gerhart gone, Norv Turner still pleased with backfield depth
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MANKATO, Minn. - Toby Gerhart served as Adrian Peterson's backup for four years after being drafted out of Stanford. Now, he'll be the main guy out of Jacksonville's backfield, after Gerhart signed with the Jaguars as a free agent this offseason.
Norv Turner, though, still likes the depth the Vikings have at running back behind Peterson.
Turner was asked in the first few days of Vikings training camp what he hoped to see throughout camp from Jerick McKinnon. He answered the question, but he appeared more interested in talking about another backup running back. Turner brought up Matt Asiata as someone who might be getting overlooked.
"One of the guys who has been as impressive as anyone to me offensively is Matt Asiata," Turner said. "He finished the season strong and he is in great shape and he gives you that big pounder. He is an excellent athlete; he catches, he's got good change of direction, he's a good pass protector. So I know Jerick's got a lot of attention and I've said good things about him. But I think our backfield situation is really in good shape."
It's in great shape, though, in large part because one of the best in the game -- Peterson -- heads the charge. Peterson is the undisputed No. 1, and Asiata currently looks like he's the primary backup and pass protector. McKinnon could be a part of the mix, as could Joe Banyard.
Much has been made this offseason about how Peterson's role might change, whether he's catching more passes, or staying in pass protection on third down. Turner wouldn't commit so early in training camp to Peterson as an all-the-time running back.
"That's yet to be determined," Turner said when asked if Peterson would stay on the field in all situations, including third downs. "We want to be a team that runs a lot of plays. And the way you do that, to me, is you get first downs on first and second down.
"If [Peterson] is getting a bunch of carries and playing a lot on first and second down, we have the ability to use Matt [Asiata] or potentially Jerick [McKinnon] on third down. We're certainly getting Adrian ready to play third downs in that package, and obviously that includes two minute because you'd like his presence on the field."
Peterson won't do any goal line work in Monday night's practice. Head coach Mike Zimmer also said Monday that Peterson "won't get many" carries in the preseason. Zimmer already has seen plenty of film on Peterson and said he's been impressed with some of the cuts the 29-year-old back has made in the first few days of practice.
"I don't need to see him," Zimmer said with a smile.
Peterson, for his part, said he'd be ready if the staff asked him to play more this preseason.
"If they want me to go out there and play, you know, just like year one, when they sent me out, I was on the sideline ready to go. And I'll be ready to go," Peterson said.