Fans of the Minnesota Vikings everywhere are incredibly excited about the return of running back Dalvin Cook to the offense. He exploded onto the scene last season, as he was near the top of the NFL rushing charts in the early portion of the season. Unfortunately, in the third quarter of Week 4, Cook tore an ACL and saw his season come to an end.
Cook’s comeback is one of the bigger stories surrounding the Vikings this offseason, and at least one source is predicting some pretty big things for #33.
Dan Hanzus of NFL.com has his predictions for who will be the MVP of each NFL team, and Cook is his pick for the Vikings. Here’s what he has to say about his prediction:
In a parallel universe, Cook’s knee doesn’t blow out last October, and he and Alvin Kamara are battling for Offensive Rookie Of The Year honors down the stretch. It didn’t work out that way, of course, but Cook was on pace for Kamara-like greatness before disaster struck. All reports are overwhelmingly positive about Cook’s rehab, and he enters 2018 as the clear No. 1 option in the backfield for a Vikings team that will rely plenty on the ground game, even after paying Kirk Cousins funny money to be the “final piece” on offense. This nug from The Big Fish, Evan Silva: Cook was on pace for a whopping 340 touches before his ACL injury, a figure that would’ve put him in the top five among all tailbacks. That still feels possible, even with Cousins’ arrival.
Now, I’m not sure if Cook is going to get 340 touches this season. I don’t think I’d be disappointed if he did, but we’ll have to see how it works out.
If Cook has such a season that puts him in the discussion of being the MVP of the Vikings, though, that would be a good thing for everyone around him. The Vikings’ rushing offense was solid last year with the tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but I don’t think it’s out of line to say that Cook just brings a completely different dimension to the offense when he’s healthy.
Moreover, a big season from Cook would play greatly into the hands of the team’s new quarterback, Kirk Cousins. How so? Well, according to this article from Pro Football Focus, Cousins is among the best play-action passing quarterbacks in the National Football League.
Cousins leads all quarterbacks within our sample in play-action passer rating. Luckily for him, Minnesota ranked second among all teams in play-action pass attempts last year, and by 35 more than the Washington Redskins, who ranked 18th. Minnesota does have a new offensive coordinator this year (John DeFilippo), who may be less aggressive in calling play-action passes than Pat Shurmur. In DeFilippo’s last year as offensive coordinator (2015 with the Browns), his team ranked 24th in play-action passes. However, perhaps he opts for a more play-action-heavy approach next season to account for Cousins’ strengths. If this is the case Cousins might be in a better situation than he was in Washington. As we mentioned earlier, team rushing attempts has a positive correlation to play-action passer rating, and Minnesota ranked second in team rushing attempts last year, while Washington ranked 22nd.
Now, Warren took a look at what he thinks we can expect from the new John DeFilippo offense, and I’m not sure if it’s going to contain as much play action as we saw from Pat Shurmur’s offense last year. However, as we saw in the postseason, DeFilippo has the ability to get the best out of his quarterbacks and play to their strengths. If that’s the case, then perhaps we’ll see that quite frequently. A big season from Cook would, of course, make that something that defenses will have to worry about that much more and open things up for all the targets that Cousins is going to have to make use of.
What do you think? Does Dalvin Cook have a shot to be the Vikings’ 2018 MVP?