Have you ever pondered to yourself as to what makes Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson arguably the best the NFL currently has to offer?
I know it seems like a pretty self-explanatory question, but have you ever really taken the time to sit down and dissect what makes him so great? Well if the answer was no, then read along as I delve into the inner workings of All Day.
It all starts with Peterson’s vision.
Considering that he’s on a Vikings team that isn’t exactly known for having a dominant offensive line, he wouldn’t get nearly as many yards as he does without his mind-numbing ability to see plays develop and find holes before the ball is even in his hands. If you’ve ever seen any of the Final Destination movies than you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that he sees the wreckage unfold before the play and finds a way to avoid it. Whether he’s making someone miss half a second after he gets the handoff or finding the cutback that only about five percent of NFL running backs would stand a chance at finding, his vision and awareness in the backfield are unparalleled.
The next step in the process is the display of explosiveness that gets him through the holes once he finds them.
Watching Peterson’s runs unfold is like watching a lion stalk its prey. At first, he scans the horizon, looking for a weak link in the defense. Once the ball is in his hands, he stays in the shadows of the big offensive line. Using the aforementioned he vision, he waits patiently for a hole to open in the defensive front. As soon as he sees daylight, he pounces and bursts through the holes so aggressively that the defense rarely has time to react.
Even if someone does manage to step up into the hole before he can barrel through it for big yards, they usually pay the price for getting in his way. Just ask former Green Bay Packers’ cornerback Al Harris.
The final, and often most exciting, step is Peterson’s ability to pick up yards after contact.
Once he’s through the hole with daylight in front of him, there’s no telling what kind of fireworks display Peterson is about to put on. His arsenal of weapons is so wide that it’s a guessing game for defenders as to what he’s going to do when it’s their turn to ride the AP train. One way or another, it’s more than likely that they’re going to miss because he simply hates to go down. Whether it’s a spin, juke, stiff arm, or shoulder to the throat, he’s going to do everything in his power to stay upright and moving in a forward direction. Peterson is a threat to find paydirt every time he touches the ball due to a mix of elite skills and a willpower that only a few NFL players can bolster.
The three steps I just covered make up the foundation for what makes Peterson so great. Those, however, don’t even come close to completing the story.
To really bring all of those aspects together, an athlete has to have the drive and determination to be great. They need a relentless motor and a will to win that can never be crushed or defeated. Peterson has all of those things and more.
You can find evidence of this in his unwillingness to go down as he spins out of tackles and bulldozes his way over defenders. No matter how he’s doing it, he finds ways to stay on his feet and uses any means necessary to pick up extra yardage. Just this past weekend, he battled his way into the endzone while using a helpless Arizona Cardinals defender as a battering ram.
When he first entered the NFL in 2007 as the No. 7 overall pick, he had an issue with holding onto the football. Through his first three seasons, he had a disheartening 20 fumbles on his record. After the 2009 season he set out to rid himself of his fumbling woes and since then has lost the handle only two times in two seasons. Willpower: Check!
Although it would be a bit careless to call him the best running back in NFL history, there’s no denying that he’s up there among the elite. This is the guy that broke the NFL single-game record for rushing yards (296) during his rookie year. This is the guy that has racked up at least 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. This is the guy that singlehandedly gives the Vikings a great chance to win each and every week.
Whether you’re a Vikings fan or a Packers fan, there’s no denying that Peterson is a force that foes hate to face. He keeps defensive coordinators up all night and makes opposing defenders shake in their shoes every time he bursts through the line with a full head of steam.
If Peterson can do this degree of damage and strike this much fear in opposing defenses already, just imagine the endless possibilities if the Vikings actually had a decent offensive line paving the way for him.