There’s a Favorite for the Embattled RB2 Job

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; A Minnesota Vikings helmet sits on the field during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

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January 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; A Minnesota Vikings helmet is placed on the field during warm-ups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings released top running back Dalvin Cook on June 9 after six seasons with the organization. He quickly became one of the team’s best players and was a dangerous weapon in his peak – his 2020 campaign was special. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is an analytically driven mind and those analysts don’t have much to fall back on nowadays, so this move should have always been expected. With Cook gone, his backup would have to take his place.

Confused RB2 Is A Favorite For The Job

This is his chance for Alexander Mattison to finally be a starter after four years of backup duty. The former Boise State runner claimed he was ready to take advantage of his new opportunity and head coach Kevin O’Connell said he sees Mattison as the RB1. However, he also pointed out that the competition behind him would be between the trio of Kane Nwangwu, Ty Chandler and Deven McBride.

August 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Running back Ty Chandler (32) of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Silvani-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Vikings reporter Kevin Seifert wrote about 2023 Vikings Offense and he sees Shopkeeper as the favorite to claim the RB2 role as Mattison’s top backup.

“The two returning tailbacks who received second-team reps this spring — Chandler, a fifth-round pick last season, and third-year Pro Bowl kick returner Kene Nwangwu — have one attribute in common: speed. Chandler ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at the 2022 Combine, and Nwangwu ran a 4.32 at his 2021 Pro Day. The Test time doesn’t always translate into explosive play on the field, but the pace of both players gives them the opportunity to be natural complements to Mattison.

Mattison’s most significant flaw is his lack of breakaway speed. He does not have any other gear like Cook, by applying which he can take the ball home from everywhere on the ground. However, he can do most other things like a star runner, which is why the Vikings rely on him to be their mainstay. To make defenses tougher, running with that top speed is still valuable and both Chandler and Nwangwu could be that guy. Seifert believes the Vikings prefer Chandler in that role as a backup:

November 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) in action against the Dallas Cowboys during the game at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory credit: Jeffrey Baker-USA TODAY Sports.

“That said, from the outside it looks like the Vikings want Chandler to win the role, even if the competition eventually expands to include seventh-round pick Deven McBride, whom O’Connell referred to as a ‘rookie’ during minicamp.” referred to as.

Chandler is more experienced than Nwangwu and perhaps even more skilled. Nwangwu is an amazing kick returner but he has never been involved much on offense. Of course, backing Breece Hall and David Montgomery in college and Cook in the NFL didn’t help.

Chandler, a 2022 fifth-round rookie, is a versatile player with the ability to help the team in the passing game — an area the Vikings struggled with in O’Connell’s first season running the attack.

The running back fractured his thumb early in his rookie campaign and spent most of the season on injured reserve. Chandler only carried the ball for 20 yards six times. However, he had an excellent preseason in which he ran for 113 yards and 1 touchdown on only 15 carries, showing speed, agility, and contact balance. Admittedly, the preseason isn’t the kind of competition that should trigger an overreaction but it looked promising nonetheless. Chandler turned 25 a few months ago. He is older than Mattison and he needs to produce as soon as possible for the sake of his career.

December 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; UAB Blazers running back Deven McBride (22) breaks a tackle against BYU Cougars linebacker Max Tooley (31) during the fourth quarter during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports.

Chandler will face competition from Nwangwu, a man fans are looking forward to seeing after a few seasons where he wasn’t used offensively. Rookie McBride was an outstanding runner in college, but was not a part of the passing attack, mainly due to the scheme used by UAB. As a pure runner, McBride has the opportunity to become much more than a backup, but it remains to be seen if his play translates into the NFL.

Training camp will begin on July 23 when the rookies arrive at the TCO Performance Center and the running backs contest will be one of the main attractions.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team at the time, despite quarterback Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms and classic rock is his musical genre of choice. If you like Vikings, follow them on Twitter: @JanikEckardt

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