November 7, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; The Minnesota Vikings run as a wide receiver as Dalvin Cook (33) blocks Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) during a game at M&T Bank Stadium. Compulsory Credit: Tommy Gilligan – USA Today Sports
How about a three-time pro bowler with three straight 1,000-yard racing seasons below his belt line for a breakout year? Well, what about an aggressive-minded head coach that gives him more space. What if Vikings Arabic Dalvin Cook sees a career year in 2022?
Last season, Dalvin Cook ran 1,159 yards under the Minnesota Vikings, led by Mike Zimmer. It was slightly behind its 1,557 yards in the previous season. He played just 13 games last season, 14 after his previous year, but never made it through a completely healthy campaign. His carriages have been fairly consistent over the last three seasons, with the outlier being 2020, where he topped the 300, but I’m not looking for more production next season.
Cook recently sent a tweet without a caption, where he watched the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Marcus Allen hit the receiving route and the medium rise. He returned to his college number four while being an influential force in the Florida State Seminoles. I don’t think any of it is entirely connected, but there is reason to believe that an elite athlete is feeling somewhat under a coach who is probably salivating at the chance to get him football.
With just 34 passes last season, Cook saw fewer in his career taking chances. He turned receptions into just 224 yards, 6.6 yards per reception. In 2019, when Cooks saw virtually the same amount of carry as in 2021, he made a 53-catch season and added a total of 519 yards through the air. As a dynamic back, it has always been clear that his hand was an asset and he could be exposed to space.
While the Vikings have done an impressive job of rebuilding their offensive line for the signal-collar Cork cousins, it remains to be seen whether a cook-up middle attack is a healthy plan. His speed and explosiveness are among the best in the position and taking him to an end where he can run in space has always been convenient.
Darren Henderson had less talent than Kevin O’Connell did last season. Still, the Los Angeles Rams offense wasn’t satisfied with taking him completely out of backfield. Henderson saw 40 goals through the air and was able to turn the opportunity into 29 receptions. In terms of Cook’s expertise, it is fair to assume that a similar process would yield better results for Minnesota.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had a chance to catch a top wide receiver with the 12th overall pick before the Minnesota transaction. This pushed KJ Osborne to the depth chart and probably ate Cook’s chances. Instead, wide receiver coach Keenan McCardel’s advice was heeded, and the Vikings looked elsewhere for their talent addition.
What the Minnesota crime will look like next year should probably be stylish. Under Zimmer it became obsolete and failed to use a set of players in the skill position that could be among the best in football. There is no doubt that O’Connell will be plenty ready for star receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thieln, but turning Cook into a semi-wide receiver could pay dividends.
Maybe that tweet was nothing, but I like to imagine that Dalvin is ready to roll with the ball in his hand as much as possible.