It’s been a long time since the Minnesota Vikings started two rookies on offense. To be exact, you have to go back to 1963 when rookies WR Paul Flatley and TE Ray Poage opened up the year in purple. But Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein didn’t look anything like rookies in their impressive debuts against the New Orleans Saints.
The Vikings’ first two picks in the 2017 draft played major roles in the Vikings’ 29-19 win over the Saints. Cook gained 127 yards and Elflein showed he could adapt quickly to NFL speed and strength.
“It felt great,” Cook said. “The environment was set for us to go out there and make big plays. I think we did a good job at making plays, kept [Drew Brees] off the field. It felt great competing and getting a ‘W.'”
When Cook was selected in the second round by the Vikings, he was expected to be part of a three-headed monster in the backfield with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but his exceptional performance in training camp combined with a quick grasp of the Vikings’ offense propelled him to the No. 1 back.
His usage on Monday showed exactly how high the coaching staff is on their young runner. Murray and McKinnon combined for just five runs, while Cook rushed the ball 22 times and caught three passes.
“This stadium is crazy and the fans make it even better,” Cook said. “Hearing the chant, hearing everything around you when you make plays, it’s unbelievable.”
Cook was sure to credit his offensive line, which was led by rookie Pat Elflein.
“I wanted to be calm and not overwhelm myself because that’s not going to do me any good especially when I’m making calls and making sure everyone’s on the same page,” Elflein said. “Really it goes into your preparation during the week. Work really hard then, study and when it comes to game day you just let it go. ‘Leave your anxiety in here,’ is what Coach Zimmer always says and I take that to heart.”
Quarterback Sam Bradford was impressed by Cook’s ability to keep grinding late into the game.
“I should be more surprised by that, but I’m not, probably because of how talented he is and because of what we’ve all seen from him since he got here,” Bradford said. “You can’t really say enough about him, to be able to come in and play as many snaps as he did to keep pounding and pounding and finally break a few at the end.”
Linebacker Ben Gedeon also started on defense and saw significant playing time in the team’s base package. He picked up two tackles in the win.