We started our look towards Minnesota Vikings training camp yesterday with a look at the quarterback position. Next up, we have the running backs.
Once again, let's look at how the Vikings started the 2014 season, how they finished the 2014 season, and who is currently on the roster at the position.
How They Started Last Year: Adrian Peterson (starter), Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, Jerome Felton (FB), Zach Line (FB)
How They Finished Last Year: Asiata (starter), Joe Banyard, Henry Josey, Felton (FB), Line (FB), McKinnon (injured reserve), Peterson (you know)
How They Head Into Camp: Peterson (starter), Asiata, McKinnon, Banyard, DaJuan Harris, Dominique Williams, Line (FB), Blake Renaud (FB)
The Vikings only got 21 carries and 75 yards out of Peterson last year before he wound up on the shelf. He wasn't the leading rusher in the one game he played in (that honor went to Cordarrelle Patterson), and his situation put a cloud over the entire 2014 season. However, he's back now, and the expectations for him are all over the board (outside of Vikings fans, I mean). However he performs, the biggest thing he could potentially do for this team is to help take heat off of Teddy Bridgewater and open things up for the rest of the offense. Of course, he's probably going to put up plenty of yards and touchdowns along the way, too. That should help things.
In Peterson's absence, the Vikings had to go with a bit of a "thunder and lightning" approach last year, with Asiata playing the role of the battering ram and McKinnon being more of an all-purpose guy until he got injured. With Peterson's return, the question is going to be which of them serves as the primary backup. I really have the feeling that the Vikings see McKinnon as a potential heir apparent to Peterson, maybe as soon as next season. If Peterson should get hurt, McKinnon is probably going to slot in as the main guy. If you're in a fantasy league and you take Peterson early, you should probably toss a late-round pick at McKinnon, too. As far as Asiata. . .well, he was third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season, but I don't see him vulturing too many goal line carries away from Peterson.
As far as Banyard, Harris, and Williams. . .well, the Vikings have only carried three running backs for the last few years. Banyard showed a little bit in limited action last year, and Harris is allegedly going to get some looks as a returner. However, barring an injury to Peterson, McKinnon, or Asiata, I have a feeling that all three of those guys are going to get a visit from the Turk on cutdown weekend.
The Vikings will have a bit of a different look at the fullback position this year, too. While Jerome Felton remains one of the better fullbacks in the NFL, he didn't even play in 20 percent of the team's snaps in 2014, and he opted out of his contract after the season. That leaves the team with Zach Line and undrafted free agent Blake Renaud. The Vikings kept two fullbacks on their roster for most of last season, but I have a hard time imagining that will be the case this year. The team has a couple of players listed as tight ends in Rhett Ellison and MyCole Pruitt that could serve as a sort of tight end/fullback hybrid, and the team might be hesitant to get rid of one of them in favor of keeping a second fullback. It will be interesting to see if the team continues to hang on to Line or if Renaud can make a move in camp.
It would appear that this team got most of their running back-related drama out of the way last season and during the off-season. Hopefully there won't be an opportunity for more to rise up again during the 2015 season.