When rookie running back Dalvin Cook went down in the fourth week of the season with a torn ACL, many. . .myself included. . .expected the Minnesota Vikings’ running game to suffer. However, at least early on in the wake of the injury, that hasn’t been the case.
Here's a crazy stat: since RB Dalvin Cook tore his ACL, #Vikings have INCREASED their rushing output. 108 rush ypg Weeks 1-4, 146.7 since— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 25, 2017
Yes, since Cook went down, the Vikings are running for nearly 40 more yards per game. Both of their primary running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, have also had 100-yard performances during that three-game stretch.
In fact, in seven games this season, the Vikings as a team have rushed for 872 yards, a figure which sees them tied for eighth in the league in that category. By comparison, in 16 games last season, the Vikings rushed for a total of 1,205 yards. They’re also averaging over a full yard per carry more this season than they did in 2016 (4.3 to 3.2).
While the performances of Cook (before his injury), Murray, and McKinnon have contributed greatly to that, the biggest part of that has got to be the offensive line. A group that struggled to block anybody against the run (or against the pass, for that matter) in 2016 has been much better at opening holes this season, even with several players missing time. The four new starters on the offensive line have gelled more quickly than most would have thought possible, and are giving whoever lines up in the backfield the opportunity to get positive yardage.
Obviously, we would all prefer it if Dalvin Cook was still lining up to Case Keenum or Sam Bradford (or Teddy Bridgewater OMG) in the Minnesota backfield. But, the performances that this team has put together since then have, thankfully, shown that the offense can keep moving pretty well without him.