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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Did Patriots’ Blount provide a blueprint for how Vikings could use Peterson?

By Matthew Coller

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In a very specified role, LeGarrette Blount was one of the New England Patriots’ most valuable players this season.

New England’s 250-pound running back carried the ball more in 2016 than any other player except Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott. We usually don’t think of a LeRoy Hoard redux in the backfield when the Patriots come to mind, but New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned to Blount only in certain situations and sets. His role, to paraphrase Mr. T in Rocky III, was pain.

Because Tom Brady is Tom Brady, it is almost taboo to point out how the Patriots have worked around his age, but New England ranked 25th in passes described by official NFL play-by-play as “deep.” The only full-time starting QBs to throw downfield less were Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

One of the adaptations made by the Pats was using running backs as a bigger part of the offenses. In terms of play distribution, running backs either were targeted in the passing game or handed the ball on 47% of New England’s total plays. That’s even more than the Cowboys, who came in at 44%.

While the Patriots’ Super Bowl foes have two duel-threat running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, New England uses very specified roles for their three backs. Blount is solely a ground-and-pound, clock-killing, goal line scoring machine. He was essentially a closer, brought in to finish the job that Brady and his pass-catching running backs James White and Dion Lewis had done to get the lead.

The Patriots finished fifth in the NFL in time of possession, which is a change from when Brady was at his best in 2011. They ranked 27th that year.

McDaniels gave Blount every possible blocker he could find, using multiple tight ends on the majority of the former Oregon Duck’s carries.

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This is where Adrian Peterson comes in.

In 2015, the Vikings rarely used running back Jerick McKinnon, who is a speedy, pass-catching running back much in the mold of Tevin Coleman or James White. When McKinnon was in the game as a yang to Peterson’s ying, he was successful, gaining 8.2 yards per catch and 5.2 yards per rush.

And in two and three tight end sets in 2015, Peterson averaged 4.7 yards per carry (5.5 per rush in three TE sets).

As the Vikings work through the decision-making process on Peterson, who is due $18 million next season and can be released without penalty on the cap, they must consider his role if he is going to return. At 32, it is a stretch to think he could be an effective every-down back. It also wouldn’t make much sense in Pat Shurmur’s system, which was most effective with running backs like Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles in the past – not pure runners like A.P.

But the Patriots show that mixing and matching with the situation can work. Instead of a distribution of 363 plays for Peterson and 81 for McKinnon, could the Vikings have the split look more like Blount vs. White/Lewis, which was 58% Blount and 42% White/Lewis? (Of course, that would vary depending on how often the Vikings were leading in the fourth quarter).

Would Peterson be willing to accept the role? Possibly if it is sold as similar to Blount, who led the NFL with 18 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards. With A.P., though, it’s hard to say whether he realizes that he can no longer be the centerpiece of an offense.

Price matters, too. Blount made $1 million this year, which is the most he’s ever been paid in one season. It’s impossible to see Peterson returning to Minnesota for anything close to a figure that low.

The post Did Patriots’ Blount provide a blueprint for how Vikings could use Peterson? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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