Should the Vikings Go for the King?

The Minnesota Vikings need to fix their rushing attack in 2024.

Minnesota cut Dalvin Cook last June, and they went into the season relying on Alexander Mattison as their RB1. While letting Cook go certainly seems like the correct decision, the Vikings struggled mightily in the running game throughout the season.

They finished the year 28th in total carries, 29th in rushing yards, 23rd in yards per carry, and worst of all, tied for last in rushing touchdowns. Three of their seven rushing touchdowns on the season can be attributed to Josh Dobbs. Not only was there no balance between the passing and rushing attack, but when they did opt to run the ball, there was no efficiency to warrant sticking with it.

Vikings
Nov 19, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As a result, the running back room should be a point of emphasis this offseason. Could that result in the Vikings taking a shot at the King of running backs?

Should the Vikings Go for the King?

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) warms up as the team gets ready to face the New England Patriots at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

I am speaking, of course, of longtime Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. Since taking over the full-time starting job in 2018 for Tennessee, he has surpassed 1000 rushing yards five times, and the only season in which he didn’t accomplish the feat was 2021 when he amassed 937 yards in just eight games before missing the remainder of the campaign with an injury.

All signs have pointed to 2023 being Henry’s final season in a Titans uniform, and while the 30-year-old has certainly taken a bit of a step back in terms of his explosiveness, he has proven he is still capable of putting together massive games.

Look no further than his Week 18 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in which Henry willed the Titans to a win by totaling 153 rushing yards and a touchdown on his 19 carries. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. The 2023 Vikings got only one such game from a running back this season (Ty Chandler in Week 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals).

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) waves to fans as he exits the field after defeating Jacksonville Jaguars 28-20 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.

The most intriguing part of a potential union with the Vikings this spring would be his ability to boost Minnesota’s red zone offense. The Vikings ranked 28th in red zone TD percentage by punching the ball in just 47.1% of the time inside their opponent’s 20-yard-line.

This simply isn’t good enough, and in my humble opinion, a big reason for that lies in the ineffectiveness of Minnesota’s running game. According to Fantasy Pros, Mattison totaled 23 carries in the red zone this season and mustered a paltry 21 yards on those carries, an average of 0.9 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Chandler got just 11 carries in the red zone for 24 yards and scored three times.

While Henry might not be able to put together massive rushing totals on a regular basis anymore, he remains a beast near the goal line. His 34 carries in the red zone this season resulted in 88 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns, which ranked tied for sixth among NFL running backs.

At the end of the day, Henry likely recognizes that the days of him being a true workhorse back in the NFL are coming to an end. However, the Vikings could revitalize their rushing offense by allowing the young legs of Chandler pick up chunk yards in the open field while giving Henry the chance to bowl over defenders with his 250-pound frame near the goal line.

It’s an option worth exploring when free agency rolls around in March.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Fantasy Pros and Pro Football Reference.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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