Dr. Dalvin Cook Might Have Cure For Vikings 2nd Half Ailments

Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn – Associated Press

Both the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers have a very similar element to their offenses. They employ an elite running back who gets paid a lot of money to carry a heavy workload when healthy. In Minneapolis, that RB1 is Dalvin Cook, who has missed two of the last three weeks with a nagging ankle sprain. In Charlotte, they lean on Christian McCaffrey, who left Week 3 with a hamstring issue that’s kept him out for two weeks since.

How important are these running backs to how their offenses produce? Both McCaffrey (2018, 2019) and Cook (2019, 2020) have had two (mostly) healthy seasons where they’ve been asked to carry a huge chunk of their team’s offensive workload. When able to avoid the injury bug, they’ve been two of the most feared offensive weapons in the NFL.

stats per pro-football-reference

Pro Football Reference has developed a new advanced metric called “Approximate Value” (AV), which attempts to assign a number to each player for every performance. Every (mostly) healthy season Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey have played, they finished top-10 in offensive AV score. Those two and Derrick Henry are the only running backs who sniff 15 AV in a full season.

Cook In, McCaffrey Out

Cook is returning to a Vikings offense that has failed to get much going in the last couple weeks. Since Dalvin went down, Klint Kubiak’s squad has been especially bad in the 2nd half. In the two games where Cook was a regular participant in the second half, the Vikings scored a total of THREE second-half touchdowns. In the three games without him, they scored ZERO.

Dr Cook Has 2nd Half Cure?

Alexander Mattison is a fine backup and a fine player, but he isn’t Dalvin Cook. Nobody is, even if he’s only 90%. Establishing the run is always important for the Vikings. But a healthy Cook is a threat through all four quarters and something opposing teams dread all week long.

When healthy, Zimmer likes to ride Dalvin in the second half. Why not? An elite running back can methodically turn a first half lead into a 2nd-half runaway victory because they keep the clock and the chains moving. Something that’s evaded this team in his absence.

The Vikings have run the ball 65 times in the second half of games this season, nearly identical to their first half number of 66 rushing attempts. Yet, just 11 of those second half runs have resulted in 1st downs. That’s compared to 21 rushing 1st downs in the front half of games off basically the same attempts. That’s not good enough to get the job done.

RB1 Advantage

There are few players more impactful to their team’s offensive production than what Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey are to the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers. Whether it’s in the pass or by standard run play, those two guys are make their offenses go.

Both teams were hoping to see their star running back return to play this week but after McCaffrey was sent to IR on Saturday, only the Vikings will have that chance. Early in the week Carolina was favored to win Sunday, but as these injury designations have come out, the money has shifted to (-2.5) Minnesota.

A (hopefully) healthy Dalvin Cook wasn’t even listed on the final injury report, released Friday. If Cook is healthy, the RB1 advantage could be the exact boost the Minnesota Vikings need, especially in the 2nd-half, to pull out a victory in Charlotte on Sunday.

Cooper Carlson | Minnesota Sports Fan