Since the conclusion of the Minnesota Vikings’ tie against the Green Bay Packers, they have either not had Dalvin Cook in the lineup or he has been severely limited by a hamstring injury. On Thursday, he practiced for the first time since suffering the injury in Week 2. Over the last three weeks, the Vikings have gained a grand total of 145 yards on the ground.
Cook’s return has the Vikings looking back to Week 1, in which they ran for over 100 yards as a team and saw their star back break numerous tackles in a 24-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
“Dalvin is a very, very gifted guy,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. “We’ve all seen that. Earlier this season, you saw that against the 49ers. First play of the game we basically throw him the ball, but it’s basically tossed. We basically just tossed the ball out there and nine yards. That one he had where he made eight guys miss or whatever, that was incredible. I think it just adds another dynamic piece and a guy you can move around a lot and do some things with, unique things with and get creative. We are excited that he is back.”
Last season Cook flashed his high-end potential by rushing for 354 yards in the first three-and-a-half weeks before suffering a torn ACL. The Vikings were able to make up the difference with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon as they combined for over 1,400 yards. This season has been different, in part because of changes/injury on the offensive line. The absence of Joe Berger and Nick Easton has been noticeable — though the Vikings have matched up against a remarkable amount of talent on the interior of opposing defensive lines.
DeFilippo’s offense did see some success running the ball to the edges against Philadelphia.
“As an offensive coaching staff last week, we just knew we needed to try something different,” he said. “Obviously, the yardage wasn’t there but there were some effective runs when we needed it. Everyone wants to talk about yards-per-carry, this and that. Can you run it when they know you’re going to run it? Can you finish out games? We did that. We did that Sunday. We are going to continue doing that moving forward.”
Cook isn’t just a part of the rushing attack. He adds a dynamic element to the passing game as well, catching nine passes for 107 yards in limited duty this year. The Vikings have had success even in his absence working the ball around in the quick passing game. Cook could provide another layer to that strategy. DeFilippo explained his quick-pass philosophy on Thursday:
“Get the ball on the outside of the numbers,” he said. “Number two, get the ball in one of our best playmaker’s hands. Number three, get the ball out of Kirk’s hands quickly to alleviate that pass rush when those guys are all greased up and ready to roll at the beginning of the game.”