What Should We Expect from Vikings’ New Aaron Jones + Ty Chandler Timeshare?

Aaron Jones, Minnesota Vikings
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsCredit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

After the Minnesota Vikings struggled to show any level of consistency at the running back position last season, they went out and signed veteran Aaron Jones to pair with incumbent starter Ty Chandler. Gone is Alexander Mattison, and the position looks better than it has since Dalvin Cook was at the head of the snake.

In 2024, very few teams in the NFL still employ a bell-cow running back. Most, at the least, sprinkle in a change of pace back on third down or in specific situations. When healthy, Aaron Jones has proven himself as one of the best running backs in the league, which is why he is the undisputed RB1 in Minnesota.

The Athletic’s Alec Lewis has only seen the Vikings practice a few times this summer and he says the difference in talent between Mattison and Jones is already noticeable:“Jones looks different doing these drills than Alexander Mattison did. He explodes. He bursts differently. His pass-catching ability is also evident.”

How do Minnesota Vikings plan to manage Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler?

That doesn’t mean third year running back (5th round pick – 2022 NFL Draft) Ty Chandler will be shunned to the bench on game days and relegated to scout team work during the week.

Chandler showed last season that he deserves an expanded role, rushing for 461 yards and 3 touchdowns on 102 carries (4.5 YPC). Head coach Kevin O’Connell has made it clear that this season’s game plan includes more Ty Chandler, even if Jones is considered the starter.

Jones will likely receive most of the carries, but I expect Chandler’s usage to increase. He played 27 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps last season. I predict that number will climb. As defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said last week, this is a one-two punch. The more the Vikings can rely on Chandler, the more likely Jones is to stay healthy. This is Minnesota’s best running back group since O’Connell became the head coach.

Alec Lewis (The Athletic)

Last season the Vikings handed Dalvin Cook’s vacated RB1 job to Alexander Mattison, who proved incapable of that designation. But Minnesota’s running back problems didn’t end at the top. That entire position group lacked depth from the start, and it was exposed early.

So much so that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was forced into trading for Cam Akers, who immediately improved the backfield, both in the air and on the ground, until he too was hurt. Ty Chandler was the other running back bright spot to emerge from the 2023 season.

Related: Matt LaFleur Calls Aaron Jones the Baddest Dude He Has Ever Coached

The 2nd year speedster immediately stuck out with his shiftiness and ability to hit holes when they appeared… and sometimes when they didn’t. Had Chandler been better in pass protection and earned more trust from KOC on his football knowledge, I’m not so sure Jones is wearing purple and gold this season.

Nonetheless, we’re glad he is. With Jones now leading the room as the established all-pro veteran, and Ty Chandler there to learn from him and take his next step in his NFL career, the Minnesota Vikings might have one of the better one-two running back punches in the NFC.

A healthy Aaron Jones can help Ty Chandler a lot

Aaron Jones has been a star for the Green Bay Packers since breaking into the NFL, and now wearing purple, he’s certainly out for vengeance. Coming to Minnesota, the greatest thing he can provide is being on the field. The Vikings’ offense needs Jones to be the same dude in purple and gold that he was in green and gold.

Kevin O’Connell inherited a declining Dalvin Cook, so if Jones can still play at an all-pro level, he will be the first legitimate RB1 KOC has coached as an HC. Every season that Jones has carried the ball 200 times, he has topped 1,000 yards.

Jones has a career 5.0 YPC average, which is completely insane for a running back who has been in the league for 7 years and has carried the ball nearly 1,200 times.

Career7 Yrs978511775940455.012.127220767.6182.8
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2024.

As you can clearly see, though. Jones has never been a bell-cow, which is more proof that the Vikings likely won’t ask him to be that this season, either. He wanted a guy who maximizes his reps on the field and Jones is absolutely that. Not only will he rush for 5 YPC, but he can catch 50+ passes per game too and block on pass plays.

Related: ESPN Ranks J.J. McCarthy’s Supporting Cast Behind Caleb Williams’ and… Daunte Culpepper’s

Last season the Vikings saw what they get when Ty Chandler is unleashed, but he isn’t a number one guy and maybe never will be that. Plus, O’Connell is never going to ask a running back be that guy, anyway, especially with the type of weapons Minnesota has in the pass game (Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and TJ Hockenson).

Nonetheless, Chandler will have to show that he can handle an expanded role from last season, or my guess is that the Vikings will find someone else who will. PS: Cam Akers is still a free agent.

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