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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Why would the Dallas Cowboys be interested in Adrian Peterson?

By Matthew Coller

When ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Dallas Cowboys may be interested in Adrian Peterson (if the Minnesota Vikings elect to release him) the collective reaction on social media was: “Huh?”

Not that anything that Jerry Jones does would surprise anyone, but rookie Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing in 2016. So why would they need another running back, let alone one who still thinks he’s a No. 1 back?

Of course, it would be a prerequisite that Peterson be OK with playing second banana to the young star. If so, a role in the Dallas offense might be a good fit for both Peterson and the Cowboys.

While Elliott made a good case for being the NFL’s best running back (though David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell might dispute that), the 21-year-old led the NFL with 322 carries in his rookie year and was on the field for 722 total plays, many of which he was in to pass block for quarterback Dak Prescott. Only Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Bell and Todd Gurley were on the field for more plays.

Elliott’s backups Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris combined for 93 carries at 3.5 yards per attempt.

Around the NFL, many teams are turning toward having two running backs split the load. This year’s Super Bowl contenders, for example, each had multiple runners as part of their attack. New England used LeGarrette Blount for the ground-and-pound game and James White and Dion Lewis as duel-threats while Atlanta gave Devonta Freeman the majority of the carries, but Tevin Coleman mixed in for 118 carries for 520 yards and 31 receptions.

Peterson could not only mix in to give Elliott a rest on long drives, but he could also play the closer role for Dallas. When the Cowboys have a healthy lead and need to wear down the clock, they could avoid wearing down Elliott in the process.

We’re all aware of the Shaun Alexanders and Larry Johnsons of the world who ran the ball well over 300 times consistently and hit a wall at a fairly young age. The Cowboys should be interested in avoiding the same fate for Elliott.

Speaking of the age curve, Peterson’s yards per carry has been fading since the second half of the 2015 season. Figuring out whether the future Hall of Fame back has anything left in the tank is pretty tricky considering he was injured for much of last season and only carried the ball 37 times. Not to mention that the Vikings’ offensive line has been among the league’s worst.

In Dallas, A.P. would be running in open space – a lot. Four of the Cowboys’ incredible core of linemen are still in their prime and La’el Collins may take over at right tackle for the only elder statesmen Doug Free. Guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick were both ranked No. 2 in the NFL at their position by Pro Football Focus this year and guard Ronald Leary was 13th in run blocking.

Of 37 carries last year, Peterson was hit behind the line of scrimmage eight times (21.6%). Compare that to Elliott, who was stuffed only 7.8% of the time according to the website Sporting Charts. Even in 2015, Peterson’s runs were ended before they had a chance on 14.4% of his carries – nearly double

Peterson wouldn’t have a tough time figuring out Dallas’s run scheme, either as the Cowboys use zone blocking, a tactic that the Vikings’ running back has had success with at times during his career.

In order to afford A.P., the Cowboys will have to find a trade partner for Tony Romo. According to OverTheCap.com, Dallas is currently, $11 million over the salary cap for 2017 with Romo. So Peterson would have to swallow his pride in order to take a low-risk deal from Dallas. But a Super Bowl contending team from his home state (with an incredible offensive line) might be just enough to get him to take a reasonable contract.

The post Why would the Dallas Cowboys be interested in Adrian Peterson? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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