Cliff wrote: ↑
Thu Jul 02, 2020 2:16 pm
Still, the Vikings have built their offense around having an RB with the skills Cook possesses at RB.
I question whether that is true.
The more I look back on the 2019 season, the more convinced I am that what the Vikings got out of their running game, especially in the earlier part of the season, was as big a surprise to them as anyone. I say that based on two things:
- While Spielman and Zimmer had invested in the offensive line prior to the 2019 season, they were starting a rookie center, a 2nd year RT, and were placing a big bet on Elflein being able to play guard. In short, their starting OL was not one that suggested confidence in establishing the run.
- A lot of the success on the ground in the earlier part of the year was on the back of explosive runs. Most of those came from superlative efforts by Cook, but Mattison and others played a role as well. The run game wasn't really a "churn" style where the regular, needed yardage came consistently. It was more "Wow! How did Cook do that!?!?"
I'd also argue that based on that early, explosive success generated mostly by Cook, the Vikings didn't really need to rely on Cousins and the passing game as much and so they didn't. They rode Cook's Superman imitation running as long as they could, and those who observe (rightfully) that Cousins and the passing game's relative performance went down when Cook wasn't on the field was probably largely a result of that.
I think that led to two consequences for this year, both of which are coming out in this thread. First and foremost, the obvious conclusion is that Cook is "necessary" to make the Vikings offense go. After all, there is plenty of evidence that is true. But I'd argue that Cook masked not Cousins' deficiencies per se, but more the deficiencies of the offensive line. When Cook wasn't imitating Superman and the burden fell on Cousins and the passing game more, the offensive line was roughly still as effective, and as a result Cousins, who doesn't imitate Superman that often, couldn't overcome those deficiencies nearly as often, and in many cases not at all. Second, and less obvious, is the perception mentioned by Cliff that the Vikings have built their offense around a 1970's era strategy of run-first. I think recent offensive signings and the lack of investment in the type of offensive linemen necessary to implement that strategy belies this. As has been pointed out numerous times, a run-first team that looks to its QB to execute only screen passes and hand off the football doesn't need to compensate him like a top QB. A run-first team doesn't invest sizeable cap in a pass-first vet TE either, nor does it use a high draft pick on a rookie TE who is known primarily for his route running and receiving skills.
There are probably valid counterpoints to these, but I'd say the evidence doesn't support the claim that the Vikings *intended" to be a running team last year. I'd go further to say they do not intend to be one in 2020, either, and their offseason moves in terms of players and extensions support that contention. They want to be able to run, but I don't think they value the explosive element to the run game as much as we fans might think, and they are likely more than content to head into 2020 without Cook if he forces that outcome. I'd say the Vikings want to be an effective and explosive team passing the ball, supplementing that with efficient, well-timed running.
Whether that is wise is left as an exercise for the reader.