Vikings Must Stop Pretending Alexander Mattison is RB1 Material

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

2.44 yards is approximately 7 ft, 4 inches. If you’re measuring a human’s height, that is very much above average, even for an NBA basketball player.

But if we’re on the football field, talking yards-per-carry for a starting NFL running back, it’s not just a bench-worthy number… straight up embarrassing. Like, poop your pants in the middle of 9th grade gym class, embarrassing.

Why is Alexander Mattison still the Minnesota Vikings RB1?

But that’s what Minnesota Vikings “RB1”, Alexander Mattison, mustered vs the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon. 18 carries, 44 yards, 0 touchdowns.

It’s the 2nd-straight week his per carry average has fallen below 3.5 yards and the 4th time it’s happened in 6 games this season. Yet… head coach and offensive play-caller, Kevin O’Connell, continues to feed him.

Meanwhile, Cam Akers, who the Vikings traded for a few weeks ago, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, since arriving in Minnesota, including 8 yards on his only attempt vs the Bears. For most of us, it’s been obvious since Akers first carry in purple that he is a superior running back to Alexander Mattison.

Related: O’Connell Reiterates Alexander Mattison is Vikings’ RB1; Cam Akers Likely Inactive

Not only is Cam faster, quicker and more explosive than Alex, but he has much better vision and breaks more tackles too. That’s not difficult to do, though. Mattison’s struggles to find rushing lanes is evident week in and week out, and his overall statistics speak for themselves.

And as for broken tackles, Cam Akers has more than zero, which is all it takes to outpace the Minnesota Vikings current RB1. That right, Alexander Mattison has started 6 games this season and he’s carried the football 82 times.

Yet, the 24-year-old former Boise State star has ZERO broken tackles to show for it. Per Pro Football Reference, Alexander Mattison is the only running back in the NFL, with 50+ carries, who has yet to break a single tackle through 6 weeks.

If you drop the qualifier to 49+ carries, Ezekiel Elliott joins him on the list of shame. Drop the qualifier even lower, you’ll get a few more guys that most NFL fans have never heard of. But Mattison is the only back on the list with more than 1 start and he is clearly the outlier of the group, when it comes to usage.

If you can’t break tackles, as a National Football League running back, you will not play… unless your name is Alexander Mattison. And don’t blame the offensive line. Not only has the Vikings o-line been vastly improved in the pass game, so far through 6 weeks, but they are elite when run-blocking.

Don’t blame the Vikings’ offensive line.

Related: 2023 Vikings Offensive Line is Very Underappreciated

The lowest PFF run block grade on Minnesota’s front-5 is Ed Ingram’s 69.5, easily above average among the 64-ish starting guards in the NFL. Ezra Cleveland is the 2nd-worst, at 72.8.

Then, there’s Garrett Bradbury, Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw, who all rank top-6 at their positions. O’Neill’s 89.2 run block grade ranks 1st at PFF among qualified tackles.

Combined, that’s a top-5 unit in the league. Minnesota’s OL is so good blocking the run that, if you pull up the PFF offensive line positional rankings, you’ll see all five OL starters for the Vikings before you stumble across one o-lineman from 16 different teams.

O-LinemanPFF RBLKRank – Pos
Christian Darrisaw83.94th – OT
Brian O’Neill89.21st – OT
Garrett Bradbury79.56th – C
Ed Ingram69.513th – G
Ezra Cleveland72.811th – G
PFF.com

Yet, Mattison is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, good for 26th in the NFL. Take weeks 3 and 4 out, that number drops closer to 3.0.

His PFF grade, a putrid 57.1, is good for 46th among qualified running backs, one slot ahead of his old teammate, Dalvin Cook (56.5). On the season, Mattison has been on the field for 273 of the Vikings offensive snaps; Cook has gotten 95 snaps with the Jets. Do I need to keep going?

WeekOppAttYdsTDLngY/A
6@ CHI1844082.4
5KAN826073.3
4@ CAR17950175.6
3LAC20930154.7
2@ PHI828073.5
1TAM1134093.1
Total8232003.9
Pro Football Reference

When the eye test, the statistical test and the advanced analytical test all say the same thing, that Alexander Mattison is not RB1 caliber, it’s probably time to take note and do something about it.

So please, Kevin O’Connell, do the right thing and bench Alexander Mattison.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan