Alexander Mattison will be fine in Minnesota Vikings backfield, but it may take some time
The Minnesota Vikings gave Alexander Mattison the starting running back job after parting ways with Dalvin Cook. While Mattison definitely earned this opportunity, his performance so far is making fans question moving on from Dalvin Cook.
Through the first two weeks of the season, Mattison has just 62 yards rushing on 19 carries. That equates to 3.2 yards per carry. He also has failed to score a rushing touchdown so far this season.
He has not been much better as a receiver. He does have a receiving touchdown, but his overall production has been ineffective there, too. Mattison has six receptions for 21 yards.
Reasons for Alexander Mattison struggles
Play-calling: Vikings head coach Kevin O’ Connell has been out coached in both games so far this season. A running back can only have success if he is put in a position to succeed. Which bring me to my next very important point.
Offensive line: The offensive line hasn’t made it any easier for Mattison to cement himself as the new starting running back in Minnesota. Big holes are rare and when they are there, they seem to close up quick. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings were playing some reserves and that made it even harder to get positive rushing yardage.
Scheme and fit: At the end of the day, Mattison may not be the best fit for the Vikings offense. That isn’t a knock on him either. Mattison is a power runner with limited vision. The zone scheme that the Vikings run is heavily dependent on good vision. It’s a good scheme but running backs must be able to find the open hole and hit it. This offense is best suited for an elusive back who is great at catching out of the backfield. That doesn’t mean he cant do it. It just wont come as naturally as it did for Dalvin Cook.
Give Alexander Mattison some time
People are giving up on Mattison too early. So far the Vikings have played against defensive fronts that have absolutely outmatched the Vikings’ offensive line play and play-calling. For context, Mattison actually did better against the Eagles than Cook did last season. Last year against the Eagles, Cook had only 17 yards on 6 carries. In recent history, the Eagles scheme really well against the Vikings making everything they want to do on offense very challenging.
I am still confident that Mattison will have a big impact when the Viking are healthy on offensive line, or O’Connell improves his play-calling,
Why didn’t the Vikings re-sign Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings was nothing short of electrifying since his selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Florida State standout swiftly became an integral part of the team’s offense, consistently delivering jaw-dropping performances. However, Vikings fans won’t be witnessing Cook’s explosive plays on the field in the 2023 season.
Cook embarked on a journey to the New York Jets, brimming with enthusiasm to team up with Aaron Rodgers and pursue a Super Bowl victory. However, Cook’s aspirations took an unexpected turn when Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in the Jets’ Week 1 clash against the Buffalo Bills. Now, Cook finds himself sharing the backfield with the uber-talented Breece Hall, aiming to keep the Jets in contention for a playoff spot.
One significant factor in the Vikings decision was Cook’s statistics, which, at first glance, might not seem to justify his release. He consistently delivered impressive rushing yardage, recording at least 1,135 rushing yards in each of his past four seasons with the Vikings. However, a closer examination reveals a decline in efficiency over the past three seasons, with his yards per carry average dropping from 5.0 in 2020 to 4.4 in 2022. Considering Cook’s age and the impending financial burden of his contract in 2023, it became evident why the Vikings made the difficult decision to move on from him.
The crux of the issue lay in Cook’s five-year, $62 million extension inked with the Vikings in 2020. The veteran running back was set to earn a staggering $14 million during the 2023 season, which would have ranked him among the league’s highest-paid running backs. While Minnesota expressed interest in retaining Cook, the financial implications were untenable. With Cook’s reluctance to restructure his contract, the Vikings had no choice but to release him, freeing up $9 million in crucial cap space. Despite the $5.1 million in dead cap space allocated to Cook, the Vikings now carry a more economically efficient running back room, one they hold strong faith in as they navigate the upcoming season.