First off, a quick reminder that this weekend's game against the Dallas Cowboys has been moved to a 3:15 pm Central Time start. It was originally scheduled for Noon. So, everyone will have to wait a few extra hours to gaze upon the greatness of Adrian Peterson.
A debate has started in Vikings' country about whether or not Adrian Peterson should be getting more touches of the football. Thus far in 2007, #28 has handled the ball 114 times (96 rushes, 10 receptions, and 8 kickoff returns). That works out to an average of roughly 23 times a game (22.8, to be precise) that Adrian Peterson gets his hands on the football in some way, and over the course of a season, that would work out to about 365 touches. He currently averages 6.3 yards/carry, 17.5 yards/reception, and 31 yards/return.
Now, don't get me wrong. . .we all love Adrian Peterson. He's the most dynamic player to come to Minnesota since Randy Moss was in town, to be sure. But as Pacifist Viking points out on his blog and Rueben Frank points out in his column at CNN-SI, the road to greatness is littered with the bodies of guys that got a ton of carries in a season and just became unable to handle the beating any more. Among them?
-Earl Campbell: A Texas native, just like Peterson, Campbell touched the ball for the Houston Oilers a whopping 1,082 times (all but 39 of those coming on rushes) in his first three NFL seasons. He was absolutely dominant, gaining over 5,000 rushing yards at a clip of nearly 5 yards a carry. The next season, he dropped to a 3.8 yard/carry average, and he started piling up the injuries a year after that. Campbell was a dominant running back in his day, but got run almost literally into the ground.
-Barry Foster: In 1992, the Steelers found a way to get Foster the ball a whopping 426 times (390 rushes, 36 receptions). Foster responded in a big way that year, with 1,690 rushing yards and 11 TDs. The next year? Injuries limited him to 9 games. After the 1994 season, Barry Foster was out of the NFL.
-Natrone Means: Means helped spark the Chargers' run to the Super Bowl in 1994. During that season, he got the football 382 times, including 343 carries. He rushed for 1,350 yards that season, though he still averaged less than 4 yards a carry. In the five seasons that followed, he missed games every year due to injury, and was never a 1,000-yard back in the NFL again.
A few other good examples would be guys like Cadillac Williams, Terrell Davis (who got an unbelievable number of touches in Denver's two Super Bowl years and then completely fell apart), and you could possibly even throw Larry Johnson on that list, looking at him this year after what he did in 2006.
Frankly, I want to see Adrian Peterson become the next Barry Sanders, or the next Walter Payton, or the next Emmitt Smith. I do NOT want to see him become the next Earl Campbell. Campbell was great, as I mentioned above, but he flamed out entirely too soon because his coaches in Houston didn't let up on him in those first three seasons.
I've said some not-so-nice things about Brad Childress in the time this blog has been around, but I'm actually in agreement with the way he's handling Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson to this point in the season. Peterson is THE guy, even though he's still listed as Chester Taylor's backup, and as time wears on, Peterson's touches will increase while Taylor's decrease. I'm not sure if Taylor will even be around next season for Peterson to split carries with. . .but if he's not, the Vikings will find someone to share the load.
As the years go by and the Vikings start to develop a credible passing game, Peterson's carries might go down, but he'll remain productive because everyone and their dog won't be focused on him on every single offensive play. Seriously, if Peterson is this good now with everybody on the opposing defense gearing up to stop him. . .can you imagine what he's going to look like when Sidney Rice and company start stretching the field and not allowing teams to stack 8-9 men in the box on every play?
I'd imagine it, but I'd probably end up looking something like this guy. I can't possibly view that as a positive. Not at this point, anyway.
I know we all want to see more highlights of Adrian Peterson making defenses look foolish, and rest assured, many more of those will be coming. If we want to be seeing them for the next decade rather than for the next 3-4 years, then we're going to have to learn to be patient with Adrian Peterson, and accept the fact that the Vikings have already learned to be patient with Adrian Peterson. Chester Taylor isn't exactly chopped liver or anything. No, Taylor isn't going to be putting up 224 yards and 3 TDs any time soon, but he was a 1,200 yard back for the Vikings last year when HE was the only credible threat on offense, so he's more than capable of spelling Adrian Peterson. Shoot, Chester Taylor might give us the best 1-2 running back combination in the NFL. If they're not #1, then they're right there in the conversation with Tomlinson/Turner from San Diego.
Star-Tribune "columnist" Jim "Shecky" Souhan obviously does not see the wisdom of the way Peterson is being used. In response to Childress saying that Peterson was still the #2 running back, he's proceeded to compare Peterson to all sorts of crappy backup running backs in a round-about attempt to say that Peterson needs to get more carries and be the #1 guy.
This is why Souhan can generously be classified as a hack, and more accurately be classified as. . .well, I won't say here. The funny part is that if Peterson were to start getting 30-35 touches every week and ended up getting injured, the first "Brad Childress should have been way more careful with Adrian Peterson" column would probably have the name Jim Souhan attached to it. Guys like myself and Pacifist Viking and T-Bird over at The Ragnarok are putting out quality stuff on a daily basis (and sometimes even more frequently), yet this schlub is the guy that gets to work for a major newspaper covering a team he clearly doesn't like, but the rest of us clearly love.
Damn it, life just isn't fair sometimes. But enough about bad journalism.
Adrian Peterson is going to be the 2007 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year, barring injury. Heck, even if he DOES get hurt, hasn't he proven already that he's significantly better than everyone else in his draft class? But Brad Childress appears to be determined not to overload the kid, and to that I say "Bravo!" It's clearly the right decision. This team isn't built for 2007. . .it's built for the long-haul, and the lead truck in this convoy is going to be Adrian Peterson. We don't need him shredding a tire a quarter of the way into the journey.