After Dalvin Cook went down with a non-contact ACL tear in week four, Minnesota Vikings fans across the globe had set low expectations for the run game. However, three games later, the Vikings run game has been good.
In fact, the Vikings’ rushing output has increased considerably since Cook’s injury. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have been able to put up 146.7 yards per game while Cook has been out. This would place the Vikings at third in rushing yards per game, behind Dallas and Jacksonville. It seems that the running back committee of Murray and McKinnon has worked out for the Vikings offense. Dalvin Cook is down after suffering an apparent non-contact knee injury pic.twitter.com/alTOItX2Or
Dalvin Cook is down after suffering an apparent non-contact knee injury pic.twitter.com/alTOItX2Or— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 1, 2017
How Dalvin Cook’s Injury Affected The Run Game
With Cook out, Murray’s role has increased significantly since week four. In the first four weeks, Murray had 38 total rushing yards. In the last three weeks, Murray has had 172 total rushing yards. Not bad.
Jerick McKinnon has been equally impressive. In the first four games of the season, McKinnon had a total of 26 yards. With under 7 yards per game, it seemed that McKinnon had a very small role in the Vikings run game, and was very much considered a non-factor against the defense. However, in the last three weeks, McKinnon has posted up an impressive 211 yards per game, along with two touchdowns.
The Revamped Offense
But how can a team without their leading rusher still be so competent? The answer lies within the performance of the new and improved offensive line. With a new set of tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, an emerging starter in Nick Easton, and a rookie center in Pat Elflein, the Vikings offensive line has been reborn. The improvement from one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season to a noteworthy front is apparent. And, coming off an impressive performance in week seven, things are looking up for the offense.
While allowing only 9 sacks on the season, the Vikings offensive line has blown away expectations. From the 32nd ranked rushing offense in 2016 to the 9th ranked rushing offense in 2017, I’d keep an eye on these guys.