Minnesota Vikings' Backup Plan If Adrian Peterson Misses the First 6 Games
The Minnesota Vikings need to make sure Adrian Peterson is completely recovered from the knee injury suffered last season before they put too much on the best running back in the NFL. They also better be prepared with contingency plans if Peterson suffers any setbacks during training camp.
By now just about everyone has seen the images of Peterson being helped off FedEx Field in Washington after suffering tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee. The injury occurred in a meaningless game against the Redskins in Week 16 last season.
With the pained expression on his face, as head trainer Eric Sugarman and linebackers coach Mike Singletary assisted Peterson off the field, went the concerns of Vikings fans as to how long it would take him to return to the field.
He finished the game with 38 yards, leaving him a mere 66 yards short of becoming the Vikings all-time leading rusher. The record is currently held by Robert Smith, who rushed for 6,818 yards in his eight years in Minnesota from 1993 to 2000.
Peterson, known for his heroic work ethic, has accelerated his rehabilitation with the hopes of being ready for the Vikings' home opener in Week 1 against the Jaguars on September 9th. In a report from USA Today posted on Rotoworld.com, head coach Leslie Frazier has indicated the team will be smart and take their time in bring back Peterson.
Even if Peterson's knee is fully healed by Week 1, it could be weeks before the four-time Pro Bowl running back is effectively playing at full speed.
Look at Chris Johnson, who held out of training camp and missed the entire exhibition season. Johnson agreed to a new contract just 10 days before the Titans' first game last season. The lack of training camp showed as Johnson finished the season with his lowest rushing total (1,047 yards), the fewest rushing touchdowns (four) and lowest average of 4.0 yards per carry.
In the first six games of the season Johnson only rushed for 268 yards on 83 carries and one touchdown. He did not exceed 100 yards rushing until Week 10—and Johnson was not coming off a devastating knee injury like Peterson.
Yes, the Vikings better be fully prepared to open the season with a less-than-effective Peterson at best, and most likely without him.
Here's a look at several backup plans the Vikings should be evaluating.
Have Jordan Todman Step Up
Image from Vikings.com
The Vikings signed Jordan Todman off the San Diego Chargers' practice squad last December.
The only way Todman cracks the Vikings' lineup is if he plays incredibly well during the exhibition season.
Todman led the University of Connecticut with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as a sophomore and junior. In his three years at UConn he rushed for 3,179 yards on 616 carries for a 5.2 average and 31 touchdowns.
He declared for the NFL draft following his junior year and was selected by San Diego in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Give the Offense to Joe Webb and Let Him Run with It
The question has been what to do with Joe Webb—give him a shot at quarterback or move him to wide receiver?
Perhaps the answer is simple—just put the ball in his hands and let him do what he does best.
In Week 16 last season, in a game against the Lions that Adrian Peterson missed due to an ankle sprain, Webb led the Vikings with 109 yards on seven carries. His 65-yard touchdown run in the game was the second-longest of the season.
Forget About the Run
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With a better offensive line, and improved depth at tight end and wide receiver, the Vikings might want to shelve the running game until Adrian Peterson is 100 percent.
This approach has been quite effective for the past two Super Bowl champions.
In 2010 the Packers were 24th in the NFL, averaging only 100.4 yards per game.
Last season the Giants were 32nd in the NFL, averaging only 89.2 rushing yards per game.
Sign a Free-Agent Running Back as Insurance
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If the Vikings are looking to add some depth at running back by signing a free agent, former Green Bay running back Ryan Grant is available.
An undrafted free agent who signed with the Giants in 2005, Grant made his debut with the Packers in 2007, the same year the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson.
In hi first three seasons with the Packers he led them in rushing with more than 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009.
An ankle injury suffered in Week 1 ended his season in 2010, the year the Packers won the Super Bowl.
He returned last year, gaining 559 yards on only 134 carries after averaging 261 attempts his first three seasons.
According to WalterFootball.com, Grant is the highest-ranked free-agent running back available. While he may be a "committee back" at best, that's all the Vikings may need until Adrian Peterson is ready to return.
The Second-Best Backup Plan: Give the Ball to Percy Harvin
There's a very good reason Percy Harvin is not happy with his contract. If you include his return yards on kickoffs, Harvin has led the Vikings in total yards every season since being drafted by the Vikings with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
Last year he led the Vikings in yards from scrimmage with 1,312 rushing and receiving, but was only the 12th-highest salary on the roster, according to spotrac.com.
Another gripe of Harvin's could be his lack of involvement in the Vikings' offense.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com reported that Harvin was only on the field for 57.9 percent of the Vikings' offensive plays last season. Something is wrong when your most explosive player on the team is only on the field for half the snaps.
Last year he gained 345 yards on 52 attempts, leading all running backs and receivers with 6.6 yards per rushing attempt.
Harvin has demonstrated that he is the most explosive player on the Vikings' roster with the flexibility to line up anywhere on the field.
Might as well hand him the ball.
The Best Backup Plan: Give the Ball to Toby
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As the Vikings top running back, Adrian Peterson averaged 300 carries a season his first four years.
Last season Toby Gerhart rushed for 531 yards on 109 carries—a 4.9-yard average. Projecting 300 carries to his 2011 average, he would have rushed for 1,470 yards.
While Gerhart suffered a slight tear to his MCL in the final game against the Bears last season, his injury did not require surgery.
He participated in the Vikings' minicamp and is 100 percent ready go for training camp.
Gerhart demonstrated last season that, like Peterson, he is more effective when given the ball more often.
In seven games where he only carried the ball one or two times, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry, while in the five games started he averaged 4.83 yards per carry on 16.6 carries for 80.2 yards per game.
Gerhart is more than capable to fill in at starter until Peterson becomes an effective runner again.