Dalvin Cook carrying Vikings, but challenge is to preserve him for season

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After rushing plays were called just 33% of the time in 2018, the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL, coach Mike Zimmer was adamant that things needed to shift on offense. The Vikings needed to run more, but that didn’t necessarily mean a strict 50-50 split between the run and the pass.

One could infer Zimmer’s bottom line was this: The Vikings have Dalvin Cook. Use him. Build a game plan around him. And do it often.

That’s precisely how things have gone for the Vikings two weeks into the season. Cook’s workload in games that played out in vastly different ways has been the one constant on offense. He had 23 touches on 36 snaps and rushed 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 1 victory over the Falcons. That included just eight completions on 10 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown from Kirk Cousins. On Sunday, with the Vikings trailing Green Bay the entire game, Cook ran for a career-high 154 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and had 23 touches on 47 snaps.

What’s clear through two games is that Minnesota is better at running the ball than it is passing it. Cook and Cousins are the reasons nfl jerseys cheap paypal3

Cook sits atop the NFL in rushing (265 yards), yards per game (132.5) and rushing TDs (three). Gary Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski knew Cousins was struggling in Green Bay, and their playcalling reflected that, opting to wear the Packers' defense down with a rushing attack that leaned heavily on nfl nike jerseys china

The Vikings' run game averaged more yards per rush (7.24) than per pass attempt (7.18) in Week 2. In an NFL landscape predicated on high-octane passing attacks, the role reversal of those numbers is almost unheard of. In fact, the Vikings' 22 completed passes are the second-lowest total by a team through their first two games over the last 10 seasons (Buccaneers, 18 completions in 2017), according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Zimmer certainly wants to see the offense find more balance, but Minnesota isn’t likely to stray from what’s been working. The Vikings know they’re asking a lot of Cook by giving him a ton of touches and are confident in his capability. But just how sustainable is a workload like that beyond these two games?

"I don’t know," Zimmer said. "I think [Alexander] Mattison went in there and ran the ball four times for 25 yards or something. He ran the ball pretty good as well. Each game will be different, like I said before, we’ll just have to see where it goes off that. Cook is running extremely hard, physicality, breaking tackles. I think the offensive line is doing a good job with him and the tight ends have been doing a pretty decent job blocking the edges."

Zimmer didn’t have much to say about Cousins’ performance against Green Bay -- 14 of 32 passing for 230 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions -- only that he "can do better" and needs to "play within himself." That includes throwing the ball out of bounds when the receiver isn’t open instead of launching a game-changing interception like he did late in the 21-16 loss to Green Bay.

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