Monday, September 13, 2010

Time for Vikings and Peterson to Figure Out Peterson

From the time that Adrian Peterson first arrived in Minnesota, Minnesota Vikings' fans have been treated to a common chorus from NFL commentators, both locally and nationally. The mantra has been that Adrian Peterson is one of the most gifted backs ever to play the game. Many even, however myopically, have compared Peterson to the legendary Jim Brown.

Three plus years into his NFL career, and already as close to the end of that career as he is to the beginning, Peterson has yet to merit such loud pronouncements. In a league in which numerous young runners are more than besting Peterson's production on a week to week basis, the time has come for the Vikings and Peterson to figure things out--to determine if Peterson is closer to the Chris Johnsons of the NFL than to the Pierre Thomases. As of today, the answer to that question is not as evident as it appeared when Peterson took the Bears to the shed for nearly 300 yards nearly three years ago.

With four very good running backs yet to play this week, Peterson already sits at number seven on the week in rushing yardage production and outside the top ten in yards-per-carry average. That's certainly the hallmark of a good running back, but it's not the sign of an elite running back, and certainly not evidence of the successor to the likes of Jim Brown.

Since Peterson's presumed watershed game against the San Diego Chargers in his rookie season, the Vikings' running back has rushed for over 3,000 yards, yet his yards-per-carry figures have dropped every year and his overall yardage dropped 25% last season from his 2008 production. The Vikings and their mouthpieces continue to trot out the same tired lines that the opposition is keying on Peterson and stuffing the box, daring the Vikings to pass. The claim not only is no longer accurate, it is also irrelevant.

When Brett Favre showed opposing teams that he could pass the Vikings down the field and to victory, opponents began peeling back on their men in the box and approached the Vikings with a more even defensive hand, honoring the pass as well as the run. Still, Peterson's numbers declined from a year earlier, and dramatically so in terms of overall yardage. Given a new, multi-faceted offense, quite the opposite should have occurred with an elite running back.

The continuing explosiveness of Chris Johnson and the success of running backs such as Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Jerome Harrison, and Shon Green, among others, suggests either that Peterson simply is not what he has been touted to be or that Peterson and the Vikings have failed to get the most out of the running back. If the latter is happening and the Vikings are winning, all is forgiven. If the latter is happening and the Vikings are losing and failing to factor their purported most dominant offensive threat into the offensive game plan in the final half of a close contest against an expected challenger for the NFC Championship, all is in question.

Starting with the game this week against the Miami Dolphins, it is time for the Vikings to figure out how to use Peterson (including employing him in a substantial role as a receiver in the screen game) and it is time for Peterson to produce in accordance with what he believes himself to be as a running back in the NFL.

Up Next: Paying and Not Paying--Old Ways and New Ways?

5 comments:

Mike Schmidt said...

VG:

Hard to argue that Peterson's production has been rather ordinary for 12 months now save for the '09 season opener and the NFC Championship game.

I blame the Vikings offensive line. Peterson rarely has a hole to run through.

Who knows how long Chris Johnson's dream ride will last though. Last year Peterson was coming off a year where he led the league in rushing and had a fantastic opening game against a bad team (the Browns). Then, a pretty average season followed.

Maybe Johnson's headed for the same kind of season in his third year.

vikes geek said...

MS,

While I agree that the Vikings' blocking is part of the problem, it seems to me that a greater part of the problem is represented by a combination of the opponent knowing what's coming when AP is in the game (ie, AP will be running the ball) and AP simply not having great vision. When he gets around the edge, Peterson is tough to stop. Between the tackles, it's not much better than a Tahi show.

Whether Johnson has a precipitous falloff (and so far, he seems to be doing well) would not necessarily be comforting as it would merely suggest that AP is a normal back who could not recover from the strain of a big season. That's not good for the Vikings or for AP--the subject of the next entry.

VG

GW Mush said...

The writer of this blog doesnt know football.

Adam said...

Peterson's best game came against the Cahrgers... not the Bears, if I recall correctly.

I actually think that Peterson is an UNDERRATED pass catcher and pass blocker. Whether he hasn't earned the coaching staff's trust int hese areas, or if they are simply designing bad plays, is hard to say.

Good article though.

vikes geek said...

Adam,

You are correct--correction made. Peterson rushed for 224 against the Bears and 296 against the Chargers in his rookie year. I think I had visions of Walter Payton running through the Vikings' defense for the old record with that typo.

I agree that Peterson is a vastly underrated receiver--hard not to be when the coaching staff makes clear that it believes he cannot catch the ball and he does catch the ball whenever it is thrown to him. It's more difficult for me to classify him as an underrated blocker, however, when he's not really asked to block. You might be right, I've just rarely seen it. If he's going to be more involved in the passing game, however, we should have a definitive answer soon.

VG