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Bleacher Report – Vikings

CJ Ham’s versatility adding an extra dimension to Vikings’ offense

By Matthew Coller

On the third play of the Minnesota Vikings’ 34-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Case Keenum dropped a pass in over the shoulder of Adam Thielen for a 45-yard game. The success of Keenum’s deep bomb can, in part, be attributed to the Bucs’ expectation that the Vikings would run because they were in “21 personnel.”

The numbers refer to the number of running backs and tight ends. So with CJ Ham in the game, Tampa Bay was focused on the possibility Dalvin Cook would be the ball carrier. The Bucs’ safety came down at the snap leaving only one safety over the top and Thielen with a 1-on-1 matchup.

That’s part of Ham’s subtle value within the Vikings’ offense. Opponents react to the presence of a fullback by either adjusting to focus on the run or putting three linebackers in the game, which can create passing mismatches.

Ham was a versitle running back at Augustana, a D-II school in Minnesota. He cleared 1,000 yards, scored 16 touchdowns and caught 39 passes in his senior season, earning a tryout with the Vikings He spent last season on the practice squad and transitioned to fullback during the offseason.

“I pretty much just want to do my job every time,” Ham said. “Whether that’s making a guy miss for 10 yards or picking up a pass protection. Having that running back background does help me a lot when I do get the ball in the open field.”

Against the Steelers, he slammed the ball in from the 1-yard line for his first career touchdown and last week grabbed a 12-yard pass. His first reception cleared the total by last year’s fullback Zach Line. It’s likely to be a regular sight.

“He’s not talked about often…when he’s in there he does a really, really good job,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “You saw the other day he caught the checkdown and made yards after the catch. We’ve thrown him a screen pass. He can catch the ball. That’s No. 1. It’s a huge comfort for a play caller. And obviously he’s really good at blocking.”

Ham, who has been on the field for about one of every five plays this year. The Vikings only used 21 personnel on 10% of their plays last season.

The personnel grouping doesn’t require that the Vikings line up Ham in the tradition I-form type spot in front of the running back. On a 26-yard run against the Bucs, Ham set up at the tight end position off the right tackle. Dalvin Cook ran the opposite direction through a big hole.

“[He’s] very important,” Cook said. “When you have a guy like that who can catch the ball, run the ball, run block, pass block, can do it all. He’s a key piece to the offense.”

Having a player transition from running back to fullback isn’t just about size – though Ham is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235-pounds. It’s also about the aggressive approach and willingness to block far more than touch the ball.

”I feel like I’ve always had the same mentality: Play aggressive, get my job done,” Ham said. “It’s the same mentality that a lot of fullbacks have. It’s just transferring that over from being a ball carrier to a primary blocker.”

The post CJ Ham’s versatility adding an extra dimension to Vikings’ offense appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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