Is Anything Left for Dalvin to Cook?

Dalvin Cook Trade
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

Although the starters did begin Week 18 for the Minnesota Vikings, very few saw action in the second half. Looking to grab a victory and remain fresh while avoiding injury was the goal, but Dalvin Cook almost succumbed to an unfortunate fate and it is already worth wondering what he’ll have on Sunday.

For the past handful of years the Minnesota Vikings have employed one of the more prolific backs in the NFL. Dalvin Cook is a strong runner with the athleticism to both pass block and catch passes out of the backfield. There was thought that new head coach Kevin O’Connell would draw out more of an overall offensive profile from him, but we haven’t truly seen that come to fruition.

Vikings: Week 16
Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

As Cook’s regular season came to an end on Sunday, there is plenty for Vikings fans to be scratching their heads about.

On the season Cook tallied just 1,173 yards. It does represent his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season, but that is the lowest total he has produced since 2019 and that came in just a 14-game sample size. It was beyond clear at times this season that Cook simply isn’t the same runner. While there is still a talented back here, he’s much less a focal part of the offense and is easily supplemented with the likes of backup Alexander Mattison.

Notably playing just one-third of the offensive snaps Sunday, Cook tallied only 37 yards. That came on the heels of a Packers game where game flow rendered him useless, and he put up just 27 yards on nine carries. You’d like to think the lacking performance is more of an outlier, but for Cook, you have to go back to Week 10 in order to find a game in which he surpassed the century mark.

Early Takeaways from Vikings Minicamp
Dalvin Cook

If you’ll recall, that game against the Buffalo Bills featured a late comeback and an overtime victory for the Vikings. On the season, only Cook’s 111-yard performance during Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals stands as a 100-yard game during regulation.

With O’Connell leaning more on his quarterback and the passing game, it has been fine for Minnesota to see production slip for Cook. What isn’t ideal is an inability to see an uptick when the team needs it most. Against Green Bay it was clear that the Packers set out to shut down Justin Jefferson. Jaire Alexander followed him on the field, and there was consistent safety help over the top. Cook was stoned early at the goal line, and from that point on, there was never opportunity for him to get going.

Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have already seen Minnesota once this year. They held Cook to 64 yards on 14 carries in that game. Strictly by yards per attempt, the Giants put Cook’s single game production right in the middle of his season as a whole. The Christmas Eve contest felt largely empty from both Vikings fans at the stadium and play on the field. If Cook wants to help Minnesota set a better tone this time around, he can do so by getting back to a higher level of production when given the chance.

This offseason the Vikings will have plenty to decide when it comes to how their running back room will look in 2023. Cook isn’t getting cheaper, and he’s certainly not getting any younger. Becoming a more involved, and higher producing, part of the offense would be a good look during this playoff run.

Minnesota can’t afford to have the Dalvin Cook that showed up against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and they may need a better version than we have seen all year.

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.