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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Looking ahead: Even if pieces remain, Vikings have puzzle to configure at RB

By Andrew Krammer

The second of a position-by-position look at the Vikings with a focus on free agency, the draft and the 2016 season. We primed the quarterbacks here.

Running backs

2015 playing time

RB Adrian Peterson: Started all 17 games, playing 64.8 percent of snaps

FB Zach Line: Appeared in all 17 games, playing 21.4 percent of snaps

RB Matt Asiata: Appeared in all 17 games, playing 19 percent of snaps

RB Jerick McKinnon: Appeared in all 17 games, playing 16.2 percent of snaps

Upcoming free agents

Matt Asiata, unrestricted

Zach Line, restricted

Noteworthy number

• 47 — The number of third downs for which Adrian Peterson was on the field. The Vikings’ highest-paid player and leader on offense was more often than not removed from critical situations because of the superior pass protection from Matt Asiata or superior routes and hands of Jerick McKinnon as a receiver. Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2015, was on the field for less than a quarter of the Vikings’ 199 third downs in the regular season. It was a way for the coaching staff to keep Peterson fresh, but also a way to maximize the offense on third downs.

2016 cap hit, position rank

Peterson: $12 million, 1st

McKinnon: $738,750, 43rd

Quotable

“You look at the young guys. Jerick, he comes in a lot on third down and he presents a different piece to our offense, running routes and things like that. I envision myself doing things like that at a different level so that’s what I mean by being more involved and being more diverse when it comes to the offense we have.” — Adrian Peterson, Jan. 11.

Potential free agent market

Includes Matt Forte, James Starks, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, Alfred Morris, Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, Ronnie Hillman, Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell, LeGarrette Blount, Charcandrick West, Khiry Robinson, Tim Hightower and Bobby Rainey

Draft

The Vikings did their research on many draft prospects last year and with Peterson turning 31 in two months, this year shouldn’t be any different. The priority is low if the Vikings hang on to Peterson as expected. A selection could be made with more than him in mind, as they could lose Matt Asiata to free agency after he served as the primary third-down back. There remains an exit for the Vikings should they want to move on from Peterson. The bulk of his 2016 salary doesn’t become fully guaranteed until the third day of the new league year, which is March 11.

Bottom line

New running backs coach Tony Sparano jumps into a situation with one of the league’s best athletes vowing to round out his game. Can Peterson become a ‘better fit’ for Norv Turner’s offense in Minnesota? That’s the offseason question. The Vikings wanted him on a snap count, which manifested in taking him off the field on passing downs, often removing their biggest threat in critical spots. To change that, Peterson said he’s focused on two improvements this offseason — ball security and becoming a better fit (receiver, pass protector) entering his 10th NFL season. Asiata is a pending free agent and faces a tough decision between staying where he got his first opportunity, or searching for an offense with even more chances. Line is a restricted free agent who wants to stay as the lead blocker for Peterson. McKinnon saw a bump in playing time at the end of the regular season and scored three touchdowns in the final three games. McKinnon is a versatile player, and the example of a better fit alluded to by Peterson. Even if the pieces remain, the Vikings still have a puzzle to configure at running back.

The post Looking ahead: Even if pieces remain, Vikings have puzzle to configure at RB appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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