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Is Latavius Murray a fit for Vikings’ offense?

The Minnesota Vikings have Adrian Peterson’s replacement.

The Vikings signed Latavius Murray early Thursday morning, giving Minnesota a new look in the backfield. Since Murray has played in the AFC for his entire career, Vikings fans might not be all that familiar with his work. So I reached out to Oakland writer Ted Nguyen, who writes for the blog along with the film analysis website InsideThePylon, among others.

Here is Nguyen’s breakdown: “Murray is OK at catching. He’ll catch the easy ones but don’t expect him to reach out for passes. He’s a great pass protector, maybe one of the best in the league. Big, fast Athlete. He’s tall and runs upright, which gets him in trouble. Doesn’t lower the shoulder as much as you want. Vision is below average, feet are average to below average. [Murray] got better at zone running but not ideal. His best fit is in a gap scheme where he could just run full speed into a hole. Goes down on first contact more than people realize.”

The Vikings’ two running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata were used last season as check down options far more than being first looks for quarterback Sam Bradford. While Derek Carr often used his running backs in the passing game, Murray was also mostly a dump-off option, but a very capable one.

The majority of his routes are either sitting down underneath zone coverage or running into the flat.

Murray’s pass protecting ability was rated third best in the NFL. Shurmur’s offense, which succeeded a great deal by using play-action passes (third best YPA in the NFL with play-action according to Football Outsiders)  will require a good blocking back. The Vikings have not had even an average blocker in the backfield in a long time.

As for his running, Murray has gained 4.0 Yards Per Carry the last two seasons, a mark that’s just about league average. While he may not offer the pounding ability of Lacy or the footwork of Adrian Peterson in his prime, Murray is fast. At his pro day, he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, which is quick for a 6-foot-3, 230-pound back.

You can see on this play his acceleration on this play, beating the defender to the edge.

His shortcomings are evident on tape. Oakland had one of the league’s best offensive lines and their other two running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard averaged 5.4 and 5.9 YPC, respectively, which is quite a bit better than Murray. Some of that is usage, Murray got the ball in short-yardage and goal line situations, but his vision and patience are also sub-par.

Here is an example in which he can either hit a big hole or bounce outside to have a one-on-one matchup with a defensive back and he does neither.

The Raiders used a rotation last season, with Murray getting about 50% the work and Washington and Richard splitting the other 50%. The two smaller backs gained over 1,000 yards rushing and grabbed 38 catches of their own. Nguyen says Murray is better suited as a role player than an every-down back.

“He has these huge mind-numbing mistakes at times and I suspect it’s because he’s tired because generally they happen in the 4th quarter, so although I think he has the size to be an every down back, being part of a rotation would benefit him,” he said.

With McKinnon in place and an excellent draft class of running backs coming out, the Vikings have a chance to seriously upgrade their backfield from last year. And the price should be reasonable considering Lacy signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with $3 million guaranteed.

  • Jason Wisneski

    sign him already!

    • GordonGekko

      Murray type backs can be drafted late, just like he originally was at a cheaper price.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Even after reading this I’m on the fence about him ~ I dont know Ted Nguyen enough to trust what he is saying ~ Is he giving Murray a fair shake or is it kind of bias because he knows the Raiders are losing him ~ ???

    I still hope someone is setting there in rounds 2 or 3 that can come in and become someone they can count on ~ However there may not be ~ So the Vikings have to protect themselves at the same time ~ So I understand if they sign him ~

    At least defense want know whats coming when he is on the field being that he is one of the better pass blockers at RB ~ When AP was on the field teams just loaded the box and didn’t worry about him catching the ball out of the backfield ~ It cant look any uglier watching him catching passes out of the backfield than it was watching AP ~ And he is capable of picking up the tough yards ~ He can run out of the shotgun also ~ And he can find the endzone ~

    He is mostly a upgrade over AP at this point and who knows how much better he might be in Shurmur offense ~ The one downside is he will lay the rock on the ground sometime ~ He has 7 fumbles in 3 seasons ~ In AP’s last 3 full seasons he fumbled 12 time ~ Still largely a win for Murray if the Vikings do sign as long as they dont over pay for a one year deal ~

    • Scott Myhre

      Gordon I mostly agree with your assessment, especially where Murray is better in two areas, blocking and catching the ball. I say sign him and that will put an end to Adrian coming back!

      • Gordon Guffey

        I’m starting to lean that way also ~ Just as long as they dont over spend to get him ~ If he is wanting to much and I’m not saying he is then I would hope they resign Asiata and draft someone in the 2nd or 3rd rounds to go with McKinnon ~
        In 2014 McKinnon and Asiata put up over 1100 yards rushing ~ They still need to add talent at RB though ~

        • Scott Myhre

          Agreed! Sign Murry, if he’s at a reasonable price, and then draft a new young running back for the future. I also don’t have an aversion to taking Mixon, if he’s available in the third round.

    • nikoli

      ~ He has 7 fumbles in 3 seasons. In AP’s last 3 full seasons he fumbled 12 time ~

      LMAO that tells us nothing. What is the fumbles per touches rate for each player.

      And did you forget to mention AP led the league in rushing last time he played a full season?

      • Gordon Guffey

        For what AP was being paid he should have lead the league by much more and fumbled a lot less ~ But thats just how I see ~ Most fans feel the same way ~

        Also I dont worry about the touches ~ its about if he lays the ball on the ground ~ And they both do ~ You can chose to look the other way if you wish ~ I remeber the last game AP played in and he once again fumbled inside the 20 ~ Is it because he is trying to hard ~ Most likely ~ However there comes a time for a player who carries the ball as often as AP has to learn to take care of the ball ~ Just like when it comes to running out of the shotgun and or pass blocking ~ These are other areas AP had the time to learn but he chose not to ~

        • nikoli

          Well at least you’re honest in that you don’t care to find meaningful data.

      • brian199511

        A long time ago AP played a role that was required of him because we didn’t have a passing game, now we do, so Murray is a much better fit than Peterson. Great signing. Good bye and good luck to Adrian. I am concerned about how the camel is fairing however.

        • nikoli

          We have a passing game? We ranked 30th on offense bro.

          • brian199511

            Last year due to OL injuries. What is past is not always prologue, especially in the NFL.

          • nikoli

            Haven’t ranked in the top half of the league for a loooong time broseph.

  • Lester Stkl

    sounds like just the guy Spielman wants: another loser. wake up Vikes fans, the GM and Zim are setting us up for an epic bad season. The offense is WORSE off than when the season ended. and the D is about the same. With shummer calling plays the D will be on the field all the time. Can Zig wake up and see the writing on the wall? what in god’s name is wrong w the press? isn’t there a single writer w the balls to call Zim and Spielman out?

    • ZukoGr

      “Aye Cap’n…I have an Agenda in sight….shall we sail for it or ignore it.”

      “Ignore it sailor…those Agendas are usually so biased that they are not worth a look”

    • Jonathan Armstrong

      Blink twice if Reggie McKenzie is holding you hostage.

    • David Garnett

      lol, I actually agree with this Spiel is horrible look what he did in Miami, the dude sucks as a gm and we should of moved on a long time ago

  • linus

    I would have liked Lacy, but not at $5.5M.

    • Scott Myhre

      Lacy weighed in at 267 ~ what did you like about him? Possibly filling in at lineman?

    • brian199511

      Absolutely, the guy is too self absorbed to control his weight. A head case it would seem when you are in his profession.

  • linus

    For what it’s worth, some guy at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Lacy weighed ~270 pounds at one of his free agent visits. If true, I’m really glad the Vikings passed on him. Even if he was in shape, the $5M or whatever he got from Seattle is too much.

    • GordonGekko

      I seriously doubt SEA would have signed Lacy to that contract if his weight was 267 lbs. It sounded like a made up plant from a GB supporter.

      • Tom Beckerstrom

        And, you are plugged into Pete Carroll.

        • GordonGekko

          Only a loser would have a pic of the Clintons, and THAT’S YOU!!!!

  • GordonGekko

    It doesn’t say very much about him given his relatively young age, size, and experience that OAK let him go.

    • Adam Johnson

      Oakland didn’t let him go – he’s a UFA and they know they have big contracts coming up for Mack and Carr next year and Cooper shortly after that. Carr has openly stated he wants Murray back and that he thinks h’s the best blocking back in the league, which would be a big help right now

  • Andre Esters

    My vote was for Lacy lumbering around in purple, could’ve been a fun a combo with speedy McKinnon… Murray is a not a bad 2nd option. Hardest part to tell for coach Zim and GM Spielman is what factored more into Murray’s usage in Oakland… were they just trying to feed too many mouths, or was it something about Murray’s shortcomings that lead to dissent.

    I say Minnesota gets Murray, doesn’t worry about drafting a RB until the later rounds, and let’s this offense become something other than Adrian Peterson.

  • Gordon Guffey

    The Vikings on Wednesday had a pair of outside free agents in for visits in running back Latavius Murray and tight end Jared Cook. Team officials were talking to them into the night.


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