Monday, November 28, 2022

Vikings RB suffers serious injury and misses at least 4 games

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The Minnesota Vikings running back room just got thinner.

Ty Chandler, a fifth-round rookie from North Carolina who shone in the preseason and earned a spot on the 53-man roster, suffered a thumb injury in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said “he will most likely be out for weeks” but raised the possibility that Chandler might not need to be placed on injured reserve.

However, on October 11, Chandler ended up on the reserve list, per a team releasemarking him unavailable for at least four weeks before he can act on the 53-man list.

Chandler was a standout in the preseason. 15 carries for 113 rushing yards and a touchdown in three games. He showed potential primarily as a receiving back, but was buried in a deep running back room.

Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu remain ahead of Chandler while Bryant Koback remains on the practice team.

With a backfield featuring Cook and Mattison, Minnesota is one of the best running rooms in the league. Mattison’s ability allows the Vikings to field the same Run Game No as a one-for-one substitute.

“We’re really proud that we even try to get the announcers to sometimes say the wrong name after a run, like they did (Sunday),” Mattison said, according to Pioneer Press. “I definitely think we both have our unique styles that fit well and complement each other. One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we don’t have any kind of drop off when either of us is in the game. … If I can come in and run and it looks and feels like him, that’s damn good, especially since I think he’s the best in the league.”

But beyond the tandem, there are unique pieces that fans had hoped O’Connell would use more often.

Nwangwu earned special team All-Pro honors after returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in his rookie year. As one of the fastest defenders in the league, Nwangwu has home run potential every time he touches the ball.

Chandler, the shortest defender in the running back room, shows the potential of being a pace-changing scatback and earns the respect of Brian Baldinger in the preseason.

Neither Nwangwu nor Chandler had seen a single rushing attempt in the season’s five weeks – but both backs remain promising for the team’s future, particularly with Mattison in the final year of his rookie deal.

The Vikings rewarded Cook with a lucrative five-year, $63.0 million contract extension in 2020 after the former second-round pick emerged as one of the league’s best running backs.

But by the time many running backs reach second-contract status, they may be past their prime.

Cook is nearing the 1,500-carry milestone of his career, which is when most backs tend to fall away from their most efficient production.

“In the PFF era, there were 27 seasons in which a running back had at least 1,500 carries in the season — only seven of those seasons resulted in a positive RYOE [rushing yards over expected]’ wrote Tej Seth of Pro Football Focus. “The trendline is clear once a running back is getting that many carries — they usually show signs of reversing.”

As Cook’s effectiveness nears a downturn, his contract is poised for a big boost. In the first two years of his current deal, Cook cap hit $4.9 million.

But over the final four years of his contract, he’s carried an average cap hit of $14.0 million per over the cap. Most of Cook’s guaranteed money has already arrived in his bank account by this point in his career, opening a window where the Vikings could save $11 million on the cap next season by supporting Cook, who is post- June 1 turns 28, either cut back or act.

Another option would be to restructure his contract.

“In the PFF era, there were 27 seasons in which a running back had at least 1,500 carries in the season — only seven of those seasons resulted in a positive RYOE [rushing yards over expected]’ wrote Tej Seth of Pro Football Focus. “The trendline is clear once a running back is getting that many carries — they usually show signs of reversing.”



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