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Too little balance hurting Vikings rush game

running game decidedly not “by comittee”

Kansas City Chiefs v Minnesota Vikings
Vikings have the least rushing TDs (0) and rushing attempts (113) this season.
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

What did we all talk about when it became apparent that Dalvin Cook was not going to be a Minnesota Viking in 2023?

I recall the buzz words “run by committee” were never far away, and all of last summer’s running back drama across the leauge will likely have far reaching consequences to the way the game is played.

Many speculated that the Vikings would replace the aging (yet in 2022 at least, still productive) running back by utilizing a combination of different personnel to make up for that absence of one bona-fide “lead” back.

With the trusty and underrated CJ Ham as a fullback, Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, and recently former-Los Angeles Ram Cam Akers have all carried the ball for the Vikings.

So far, Kevin O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips have openly refused to adopt any sort of “by committee” approach, leaning heavily into Alexander Mattison, who has got the ball on 72% of rushing attempts.

  1. Alexander Mattison - 82
  2. Cam Akers - 11
  3. Kirk Cousins - 10
  4. Ty Chandler - 8
  5. Brandon Powell - 2

How much is that stubbornness hurting them? Minnesota has not scored a rushing TD this year.

The fact that Kirk Cousins (a decidedly not mobile QB) has taken more rushing attempts than Ty Chandler stands out, especially as Chandler has shown promise.

Akers it seems has not gained the trust yet of O’Connell, which is concerning given KOC was Akers’ offensive coordinator during two of Akers’ years in LA. Yes, he is likely still learning and adjusting to the trade, but he’s already a month (3 games) in the purple and gold.

There should be some more familiarity (both in the professional relationship and style of play) there, especially as Akers was the lead back in a Rams’ season that would set up momentum for a Super Bowl victory the next year.

Akers didn't play much on that Super Bowl team due to an achilles tear, but featured prominently again in the sans-O’Connell 2022 Rams team.

“I think he’s a guy I have a personal history with,” said O’Connell after the trade.

Akers so far, on his 11 carries, has put up 63 yards, 0 TDs, 2 first downs, and a yards per attempt of 5.7. That should be good enough to earn some more attempts, especially with the struggles of Mattison.

Mattison, with 82 attempts, has put up 320 yards, 11 first downs, and a yards per attempt of 3.9. Mattison also has a fumble (in addition to a few very frustrating drops and near-fumbles), 2 receiving TDs, and 104 receiving yards on 18 receptions (28 targets).

Chandler has been electric in his very limited appearances, taking 3 carries for 28 yards versus the Chargers and 1 attempt for 15 yards against Kansas City. He also has 4 catches for 31 yards, the longest coming in Week 1 vs Tampa Bay for 18 yards. He’s clearly been hot when his number has been called.

Neither Chandler or Akers is responsible for a turnover.

It also should say a lot that the Vikings first decent game on the ground was against the Chargers. That was the first game Chandler clearly stood out, and the next week it was Akers’ turn to put in a solid performance at Carolina.

Lost season or fire sale or whatever relating to draft position should not effect the run game long term... Minnesota has much bigger fish to fry than worry about new backs while Justin Jefferson has yet to get a Brinks truck delivered to his house and the long-term future of a quarterback is in doubt.

Having just invested in Akers, this team has to figure out how to put something together soon in the run game to take some stress off of a passing game that is clearly overheated... The Vikings have 235 passing attempts (4th most) to 113 rushing attempts (last in the NFL).

One would have to think that distributing rushing attempts more equitably between Mattison/Akers/Chandler would have to bring a needed spark of competition, and maybe even cooperation, to the running back room.

Lord knows how easy it is for opposing DCs to game plan against us right now and something has to change in the rushing game, right?

All statistics pulled from