In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings certainly had their share of struggles on offense. But, at least according to Pro Football Focus, it wasn’t because of a lack of creativity.
According to PFF, the Vikings ran more “trick plays” in 2016 than any other offense in the NFL. Their assessment included plays run from the “Wildcat” formation, reverses/end arounds/jet sweeps, and the use of defensive players on offense.
I haven’t gone back and done a full accounting of how those 42 plays break down, but I’d have to think that the majority of the Vikings’ “trick plays” came from Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata taking snaps out of the Wildcat formation. According to Pro Football Reference, the Vikings’ receiving corps last season only had 12 carries (seven for Cordarrelle Patterson, three for Stefon Diggs, and two for Adam Thielen). Tight end Rhett Ellison also took an inside handoff from his tight end position that resulted in a touchdown against the Detroit Lions.
On top of that, the only defensive player that the Vikings used on offense last season was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who lined up as a fullback on a few occasions. Again, according to Pro Football Reference, Joseph was on the field as a fullback exactly three times (I thought it was more, but I guess not). He never actually got to handle the football. . .a damn shame, if you ask me. . .but he did line up as a lead blocker a few times last season.
So, those two categories accounting for 16 of the Vikings’ 42 “trick plays,” that would leave 26 snaps out of the Wildcat for Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Without going back and doing a full accounting of how those break down, I’d guess that about 90% of those went to McKinnon.
Hopefully, with an improved offensive line, a quarterback that will finally get a full offseason to absorb the Vikings’ offense, and some fresh legs in the backfield, the Vikings won’t have to resort to quite so much “trickeration” in 2017, and the times that they do try anything fancy will be that much more effective as a result of their regular offense being improved.