The Minnesota Vikings' roster is starting to come a bit more into focus as we approach the final pre-season game against the Houston Texans. But there are still a few spots on the roster that are up for grabs. One of the more intriguing ones is the spot for a third running back, a position that figures to get some work if the Vikings plan on easing Adrian Peterson into the lineup.
Toby Gerhart is entrenched as the backup, and has been for quite some time. But the battle for the next spot on the chart is currently taking place between three players, all of whom have different abilities.
The first of these three players, and the one that appears to have been the favorite for most of this pre-season, is former Miami Dolphins running back Lex Hilliard. Hilliard has put up the following numbers in three pre-season games:
at San Francisco: 4 carries, 12 yards; 1 catch, -1 yard
vs Buffalo: 3 carries, 6 yards; 3 catches, 6 yards
vs San Diego: 2 carries, 2 yards, one fumble lost; 1 catch, 2 yards
Hilliard has the versatility to play both fullback and halfback, but as you can see from his stats, he hasn't shown a lot of explosiveness thus far in the pre-season. He's averaging less than three yards a carry thus far. . .a figure that, regardless of who he's playing against or who he has blocking for him, isn't particularly good. He might have been the favorite when the pre-season started, but I'm not sure if that's the case any more.
In fact, I think the favorite might be another guy with the ability to play both fullback and tailback, Matt Asiata. He didn't record any stats in the opener against the 49ers, but looked pretty good in the second and third games.
vs Buffalo: 7 carries, 43 yards
vs San Diego: 9 carries, 48 yards, one fumble lost; 2 catches, 6 yards, 1 touchdown
Asiata has averaged a little more than five yards per carry, an impressive feat for someone that weighs around 240 pounds. He might not offer a great deal of change from Peterson or Gerhart, but if the Vikings want to pound the ball and grind things out, Asiata might be the answer.
The dark horse in this race is Jordan Todman. The Vikings grabbed Todman from the San Diego Chargers' practice squad last season after Adrian Peterson's injury. He's nowhere near as large as Asiata or Hilliard, both of whom are in the 235-240 pound range. Todman is just a shade under 200 pounds, but he has the speed and the shiftiness that could make him a decent option to back up the Vikings' top two backs. He missed the first two pre-season games because of injury, and had two carries for seven yards in the game against the Chargers (along with an 11-yard reception).
As it stands now, I think the job is Asiata's to lose. What does everyone else think?