Happy Holidays, everyone! Over at Purple Insider, we answer dozens of questions from Minnesota Vikings fans every Friday. With news of Dalvin Cook being placed on the COVID list, we figured we'd share some of the questions regarding how the Vikings will handle Cook's absence. So let's get into it...
@BIG_dannn realistically how many touches for Nwangwu.. why is this team afraid to use his speed..they’ll need it more then ever this Sunday now
Matthew Coller: They had to be impressed with Nwangwu’s carries against Chicago. His 19-yard run, especially. It wasn’t just a big hole that he walked through for an explosive play. It required him to have a little patience, follow his blocker, explode through an opening and dodge a tackler. He isn’t just a speedster, he's got true running back chops. In total Nwangwu has only gotten the ball seven times this year yet he’s ripped off 49 yards. It’s time to crank up his usage. He’s not as seasoned as Alexander Mattison and I’m sure pass blocking is a serious concern but there’s only one running back on the active roster for Sunday’s game that can do something special with the ball in his hands and that’s Nwangwu. They need to let him loose and give him 10-plus touches.
@AngelaKG Chances they misuse (or barely use) Kene in this next game?
Coller: This team doesn’t have the best track record with getting playmakers the ball. Cordarrelle Patterson can attest. I will say that I understand the hesitancy to use Nwangwu a ton. He barely played in college and it’s really hard to get the basics of pass blocking when you’re a rookie with so little experience. But you can’t have the most explosive dude on the team (not named Jefferson) standing on the sidelines because of pass pro. Put him out there with CJ Ham and let Ham stay in to block if needed. Anything to put the ball in Nwangwu’s hands. They aren’t going to win this game without explosive plays.
@BearPawB we tend to play OK with Mattison in the game. How much of this is "Mattison is good" (which I think he is) vs "we offensively gameplan different when Mattison is in there" (which I think we do)
Coller: That’s a good observation and I generally agree that they are forced to be more pass-first with Mattison in there rather than leaning on the running game the way they do when Cook is playing. The counterpoint to that is the three times Mattison has been the No. 1 this year, he’s run more than 20 times in each game and two of them (both vs. Detroit) were underwhelming offensively overall. One area Mattison has been good is in the passing game. He has 16 catches for 133 yards out of the backfield in those three games, while Cook has surprisingly been less effective (though much of that is due to the screen game struggling). But I think Mattison has more sure hands to catch passes beyond the line of scrimmage and that can be a weapon as the Rams focus on Jefferson.
@glennsteinke Given the lack of offense vs. the Bears, your thoughts on how important getting Adam Thielen back in the lineup Sunday? And what are his chances to play?
Coller: It appears he’s on track to play. How well he can play coming back from a high ankle sprain is hard to say. It definitely makes a big difference when he’s out there. This week it’ll be quite a bit different with the way the Rams are going to play the Vikings’ receivers versus what Chicago did to slow them down. The Rams are going to put Jalen Ramsey on Justin Jefferson at all times and that will give them an opportunity to give safety help to whoever is taking on Thielen. We remember from the 2016 and 2017 Vikings how valuable it was for Zimmer to stick Xavier Rhodes on the other team’s best guy and roll coverages over toward whoever Waynes was playing against. That's what the Rams have with Ramsey. It will be the toughest test of Jefferson's career, so Thielen's presence could be a major factor.
@SamRoot43 If the Vikings win, how did Matthew Stafford make it happen?
Coller: Pretty simple, right? Stafford has to turn the ball over. He has a tendency to take bad sacks and throw stunning interceptions, so you could see Eric Kendricks picking one off in the red zone. Though this year, Stafford is 12th best in turnover-worthy play rate by PFF. He hasn’t been wildly reckless under Sean McVay. But that’s really the only way it can happen because the Rams’ receivers are a huge mismatch for the Vikings’ corners.
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