Dalvin Cook Will Set a Career High in Week 16 with a Simple Task
A lot has gone right for the Minnesota Vikings this season. They are 11-3 with a playoff spot locked up despite nearly an even scoring differential. Kevin O’Connell has his team believing as a first-year head coach and just three games remain. There have been plenty of impressive feats, and this weekend, another should occur. On Saturday against the New York Giants, Dalvin Cook will set a career high as long as he completes a simple task: play the game.
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In his six-year career, the Vikings running back has never played a 15th regular season game. The former second-round pick out of Florida State has not had a full season of health as something he can claim. Despite a previous season of 18 weeks, Cook has never played in more than 14 games during any single year of his career. Having started each of the Vikings first 14 games in 2022, he’ll be able to play in game 15 for the first time.
Cook has not made it out of each contest unscathed, and he’s certainly looked like a back that is showing some signs of wear, but availability is something he has presented to Minnesota this season. With just 1,045 yards to his credit thus far, it’s been the least productive year of his career, but he has a few contests left to add onto that total.
There was hope that the hiring of head coach Kevin O’Connell would present more dynamic opportunities to use the talented back. We thought we would see more pass catching from Cook, and despite an offense that would flow through wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Cook should have been able to gash teams on the ground. It hasn’t exactly gone like that, but Cook has continued to be productive, nonetheless.
On the ground, Cook’s 74.6 yards per game and 16.4 attempts per game are both low points since taking over as the bell-cow back. He is in line to surpass the 34 receptions last season with Mike Zimmer, and his two receiving touchdowns match the career high he set back in 2018. His 18.9 yards per game through the air are near a career low, however, and that hasn’t been a focal point for the offense whatsoever.
There should be no scenario in which Cook doesn’t surpass the 1,159 yards he put up a season ago, and he’s already generated 1,000 yards on the ground for the fourth straight season. While the production to get there has been more grinding it out with a few home runs in between, it’s notable that he’s kept himself on the field for this Vikings offense. Despite such a successful run of backup runners, Cook hasn’t needed to cede significant touches to Alexander Mattison in 2022.
You’d be hard-pressed to call this season one of Pro Bowl caliber for Cook, and again, he’s definitely shown signs of aging. That said, as the Vikings have looked to open up their offense and be less predictable, Cook being able to carry the load on a weekly basis is something we have never seen before from him. Throughout his career Cook has carried the injury-prone designation, and that’s something he’ll certainly be excited about ditching, should the final few weeks go according to plan.
Maybe there should have been an expectation for more production had Cook stayed on the field throughout the year. It really doesn’t matter where the yards are coming from however, as long as the result in the win column is being tallied. Give it to Cook and the training staff, both have helped to work together as the starting back looks to achieve a new career first this weekend.
Editor’s Note: Statistics from Pro-Football-Reference helped with this article.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.