Dalvin Cook is still awesome
November 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown against the Detroit Lions at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings were a first team during Mike Zimmer’s tenure. The former head coach wanted to control the game by running the ball and having his defense stop opponents. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it only works if the defense is good, which wasn’t the case in 2020 and 2021.
Despite paying top dollar for the setter, Kirk Cousins, and having an elite receiving duo, the Vikings should continue to showcase the running game. The team not only has an elite receiving duo, but also an elite running back. According to ESPN positional rankings by people inside the NFL, Cook ranks fourth among all NFL guards.
Great despite the down year?
2021 has been dubbed an “off year” for Cook. He wasn’t bad but didn’t look as dynamic as he did in 2019 and 2020. A bad season for Cook is always better than most fullbacks’ best season. He finished fifth in rushing yards, despite missing four games due to injury. The Vikings still missed 400 of his rushing yards and 10 touchdowns from his 2020 campaign. That’s how awesome Cook was that season.
According to NFL NextGen stats, Cook was 0.34 rushing yards above expectation per carry, totaling 81 yards. The offensive line hasn’t created as many holes as in recent years, and he hasn’t taken advantage of as many opportunities as in previous years. In 2020, Cook had 0.81 more yards than expected, a total of 251, which put him near the top of the league. The 2021 season can very well be called an “off year”, although it was still very good.
Cook Drops One Spot
Last year, Cook placed third. He lost a place. ESPN didn’t just rank players. They “surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players.” Cook got at least one of the top votes, and his lowest ranking was eight.
“Some in the league still have no problem putting Cook in their top three due to his outburst, vision and tenacity. With a full season, he could post historic numbers. But that’s kind of the problem — Cook has never played more than 14 games in any of his five NFL seasons.
– Jeremy Fowler, ESPN, on Dalvin Cook
Indeed, Cook’s durability is his biggest problem. In his fourth career game, the running back tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. Since then, he has had nagging injuries every year. Mostly in 2021 he played with an ankle injury, and later in the year Cook dislocated his shoulder. His replacement, Alexander Mattison, must be ready at all times due to Cook’s durability issues. A veteran offensive coach said of the Vikings runner:
“He has to stay on the pitch. The whole team is different when he’s in there,” said a veteran NFL offensive coach. “He’s awesome and can still improve with discipline as a runner and growing as a third receiver. I think he will show a more versatile game in a new attack.
Cook has already talked about its use. It is assumed that he will be more involved in the passing game. Maybe that translates to less running into a wall of 300-pound people, which should help its durability. In OTAs, Cook was often fielded as a receiver. He probably won’t do it very often, but running lanes out of the backfield is something he can and probably will do more often.
“Despite playing 13 games last year, Cook still produced 779 yards before first contact, second-best in the NFL. And he recorded north of 1,100 rushing yards for the third consecutive season.
Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
Fowler is right. Cook is excellent in this area. His vision is second to none and he always knows where he needs to run. The Vikings zone race pattern allows him to find the holes. Another big part of his game is speed. A member of an NFC front office said: “I love Cook. Give me Cook all day. This burst is impressive.
Cook’s speed appears in the stats.
The combination of speed and vision is dangerous, and defenses need to be aware of that. Cook can score as soon as he touches the ball.
His legendary play with four touchdowns to upset the heavily favored Packers at Lambeau Field was a special display of his skill.
In 2022, the offense is expected to shift to ball throwing, but Cook still plays an important role on offense. Head coach Kevin O’Connell has to make sure to balance the Vikings offense, especially with a great runner like Dalvin Cook.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite the fact that Christian Ponder was the quarterback at the time. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms and classic rock is his favorite genre of music. Follow him on Twitter if you like Vikings: @JanikEckardt