Minnesota Vikings: What Happens If Adrian Peterson Cannot Go "All Day?"
The Vikings are Adrian Peterson's team.
With Sidney Rice out until midseason and Brett Favre still in training-camp form, the Vikings need Peterson to pick up this team and carry it.
Peterson says he wants the ball—a lot.
He would like to get upwards of 40 touches a game.
With Percy Harvin ailing, the Vikings just might want to oblige him.
In the week one loss to the New Orleans Saints, Peterson had 19 carries for 87 yards, a decent 4.6 average per carry.
When the ball was handed off to anyone else, the Vikings only gained four yards on four attempts.
Minnesota has only three running backs on their active roster. Including fullbacks, they claim to have five backfield runners.
If Peterson were to be lost for an extended period this season, that would leave Favre, the gunslinger, without much in the way of ammunition.
Last season, with Chester Taylor backing up Peterson, the Vikings were in a good position if Peterson were to suffer an injury.
This year, if anything happens to Peterson, the Vikings may be in a whole lot of trouble.
Here's a look at Peterson's backups—I warn you, it's not a pretty picture.
A.P.'s No. 1 Backup: Albert Young
According to the "unofficial" Vikings depth chart, Albert Young is listed as Adrian Peterson's backup.
Young, in his third year out of Iowa, joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
In four seasons at Iowa, Young had 3,173 yards on 660 carries, a respectable 4.8 yards per carry average.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he rushed for 1,334 yards on 249 carries and scored eight touchdowns.
For the Vikings, he has 55 yards on 15 carries for a 3.7 yards per carry average.
I have not seen enough of Young to be confident that he could carry the load.
There must be some reason all 32 teams passed on selecting him in the 2008 draft.
Third On The Depth Chart: Rookie Toby Gerhart, Heisman Trophy Runner-Up
The Vikings selected the Heisman Trophy runner-up in the second round.
Toby Gerhart led the Stanford Cardinal last season with 1,871 yards on 343 carries and 28 touchdowns.
A bruising, straight-ahead runner, Gerhart takes the place of Chester Taylor, who signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears.
Inactive for the first game, Gerhart practiced this week and should make his NFL regular-season debut in game two against the Dolphins.
He had only 15 carries in two preseason games for 54 yards and no touchdowns.
There have been some reports that Gerhart faced a lot of ribbing from the veterans during training camp, and his confidence make have taken a hit.
Still, there's a huge upside, but he may need time to be adjust to the speed of the NFL.
It might be best if the Vikings were to bring him along slowly. If he were thrust into the starting role, it could possibly overwhelm the rookie.
Jeff Dugan: Fullback, Tight End, H-Back; But Can He Carry The Ball?
Jeff Dugan is listed as a fullback on the Vikings' roster, although with number 83 on his back, he looks more like a tight end.
The seventh-year veteran has had only 9 carries for 21 yards. His career-long is only five yards.
Dugan is on the team because of his ability to block, and occasionally lead the way for Peterson, not to carry the ball 15 times.
First-String Fullback: Naufahu Tahi
Starting his fourth year with the team, Naufahu Tahi is used to having the ball(carrier) behind him, not in his hands.
He has nine career carries for 20 yards, a measly 2.2 yards per carry average.
From 2003 through 2005, he played for Brigham Young, where he rushed 224 times for 913 yards and 12 touchdowns. His senior year, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored half of his career touchdowns.
Like Dugan, Tahi is not an acceptable option to carry the ball for Minnesota.
Percy Harvin: Rookie Of The Year to The Rescue!
The best option might be 2009 Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin.
Since joining the team, Harvin has been one of Brett Favre's favorite targets.
He has carried the ball 16 times for 137 yards, an incredible 8.6 yards per carry average. He has demonstrated that he is a big-play, field-tipping player.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has found creative ways to get the ball to Harvin. He has returned kicks, been handed the ball on the end-around, lined up alongside Favre in the backfield, and has been lined up in the slot and out wide.
Harvin already figures to play an important role in a depleted wide-receiver stable.
The 5'11", 185-pound wide receiver may not have the size to take the pounding of 20 carriers per game.
He is most effective when he gets the ball in space and can utilize his speed and quickness.
The start of his sophomore season has been hampered with recurring migraines that limited his participation in training camp. Leading up to the Dolphins game this week, he missed some practice due to a hip bruise.
I like Harvin getting 15 to 20 touches in a game, just not by running between the tackles.
Jimmy Kleinsasser: Longest-Tenured Viking
Jimmy Kleinsasser, joined the Vikings as a fullback out of the University of North Dakota in 1999. He was switched to tight end in 2002.
Starting this, his twelfth season, he has carried the ball only 43 times, with the last coming in the 2002 season.
Known as a bone-crushing blocker, Kleinsasser has seen his last carry. His 10 receptions in 2009 were the most since he had 22 in 2005, so there's not a chance that he would be given the job to carry the load.
Unfortunately, the only highlight I could find was from a video game!
Practice Squad? Don't Look For Help Here
In a pinch, could the team look for any help by promoting a potential running back from their practice squad?
The only running back on the practice squad is Ryan D'Imperio, whom the Vikings drafted in the seventh round.
D'Imperio, a two-year starter for Rutgers, played on the other side of the ball. The Vikings have moved him from linebacker to fullback and signed him to the practice squad.
Someday this kid may make the roster, but not in 2010, and not to carry the ball.
The Best Option? Keep Peterson Healthy!
With little-to-no proven backup for Peterson, perhaps the Vikings should look to protect their franchise player.
Don't put him in situations that expose him unnecessarily.
Teach him it's all right to step out of bounds instead of fighting for one more yard. That might also reduce his fumbles.
But then again, it wouldn't be A.P., and he just might not be as effective.