Around the water cooler this past week, broad discussion has been had of the need for the Minnesota Vikings to give Adrian Peterson more rushing attempts this week and beyond. The thinking, presumably, is that more carries equates to more yards and a greater likelihood of Peterson breaking a large gain or two--all of which, presumably, will bolster the Vikings' offense.
There is no question but that giving Peterson the ball more times will equate to Peterson gaining more yards on the ground and increase the probability that he breaks a big play. And this all could help the Vikings' win games.
The bigger, and more appropriate concern, however, is not giving Peterson more rushing attempts each game but making certain that he is more wisely utilized. When Bill Musgrave joined the Vikings as offensive coordinator after yet another long stint as a quarterbacks coach, he emphasized the need to make better use of Peterson. Such use, Musgrave made clear, required that the Vikings more effectively utilize their best offensive weapon in the passing attack--something that former Vikings' head coach Brad Childress all but refused to do.
Musgrave's purported philosophy was hardly on display last week, despite the fact that the Vikings were facing a team absent one of its primary linebackers--a situation that should have opened up opportunities both in the middle and in the flat. That the Vikings did not utilize Peterson in the passing attack thus says more about Musgrave's unconvincing offensive philosophy and fear of losing than, unfortunately, it says about a particular scheme for a particular game. It also says something about the current coaching staff's short-sightedness, albeit in limited showing, regarding the use and preservation of a player to whom the team just committed no less than $44 million.
Getting Peterson the ball should be one of the Vikings' primary goals. But that goal should not come at the highest cost to Peterson. The most certain way to injure a running back or shorten that back's career in the NFL is to run that back up the gut on play after play. That was the Vikings' recipe against the Chargers and it appears that the team's greatest lament in the wake of a narrow loss to San Diego was that Peterson was not given more opportunities to run up the gut behind a loathsome offensive line.
The real concern for Minnesota, regardless of the opposition, should be balancing Peterson's rushing and receiving totals. Though, as Brian Westbrook certainly would attest, that is no recipe for running back health, it was the recipe for a long career for another great back, Marshall Faulk. Moreover, while one method of using a running back no more guarantees a long career for that back than another, the fewer hits any player takes, the greater the likelihood of longevity. Reducing hits by defensive linemen would go a long way towards ensuring that Peterson is both more productive and more productive through the life of his seven-year deal. And getting Peterson the ball in the flat would help ensure not only fewer hits for Peterson on a given play, but would also ensure the Vikings more long drives and increased scoring odds--a welcome possibility in the wake of a thirty-nine yard, one-touchdown opening week performance.
Up Next: Is Bernard Berrian Again Being Shut Out?