Kene Nwangwu, An Overlooked Weapon on Offense

Jun 9, 2021; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) catches a pass in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings would be wise to lean on Kene Nwangwu a little more on offense.

The 2021 fourth-rounder had an uninspiring start to his NFL career. An offseason injury meant his first game action arrived in Week 8. Almost instantly, he began to make a name for himself. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown in his second NFL game:

Go ahead and re-live the other one:

Obviously, the kid is pretty explosive. Might the new coaching staff be able to convert some of that special teams brilliance into another weapon for the offense?

Speed scares NFL DCs. Being able to put scary fast players onto the field is thus a noteworthy goal for offenses. Irv Smith presents a real issue when he burns it up the seems; Dalvin Cook is a problem once he gets to the edge. Justin Jefferson is near impossible to cover on intermediate crossing routes; Ihmir Smith-Marsette showed he can take the top off the defense.

Might Kene Nwangwu carve out a role amidst all this speed?

One could envision him as a strong option as a third-down back. Catching swing passes and screens seem like options to explore. It also wouldn’t be shocking to use him in end arounds if he were to begin in the slot. To be on the field in these situations, Nwangwu will need to prove that he’s a willing and competent pass blocker. There ought not be a 3rd-down back who isn’t interested in blocking.

Last year, he only had 13 carries for 61 yards. He turned 5 targets into 4 catches for 9 yards. Part of the issue was the aforementioned injury. Losing valuable reps in the offseason is particularly notable for a rookie. Plus, there was such an emphasis on his special teams role that one wonders if he sometimes struggled to get a ton of offensive reps in practice.

There’s no such thing as having too many weapons on offense. No one is thinking that Kene Nwangwu is going to become more important than Jefferson, Thielen, or Cook. Instead, use him as a complementary piece, someone who defenses need to respect for the mere fact that he could take any touch to the house.