Questions for Kub: Dalvin Cook’s Workload

Dalvin Cook is the best player in the Minnesota Vikings offense. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are both excellent players, and yet Cook is truly elite. It makes sense, then, that Cook is featured.

That being said, one wonders whether Cook should be handling a smaller workload, especially given his injury history. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his four-year career. Last year, Cook had 356 touches, second in the NFL. One thing that Klint Kubiak will need to figure out rests in how he will use Cook in the 2021 season.

Dalvin Cook and His Importance for The Minnesota Vikings Offense

Our focus in this iteration of Questions for Kub builds off the first one. In the first installment, we asked how Lil’Kub will define the world balance.

A large part of our focus in that article rested in arguing in favor of increased opportunity for Minnesota’s tremendous collection of pass catchers, Jefferson, Thielen, and Irv Smith foremost among them. Heck, if they add a speedster at WR3, then Minnesota will have even more reason to emphasize the pass.

Nevertheless, Cook will remain the foundation of Minnesota’s offense. Mike Zimmer wants to have a ball-control, clock-killing offense. Lil’Kub will therefore have some limitations in how much he can adjust Cook’s workload. The focus for Lil’Kub, then, may need to shift to how he gets Cook touches. Indeed, not every touch is created equal.

Let’s consider two scenarios to illustrate this point. In the first video, you’ll see Cook charging straight ahead into a strong defensive front:

The second video features Cook scoring a touchdown against another division rival. The key difference rests in how much physicality is required to score this touchdown:

These are merely two examples, and yet they help to illustrate the point: not every rep is created equal in the NFL. The Vikings should commit themselves to feeding Cook. He is a remarkably talented player, one who works tremendously hard and is a leader on the team. What kind of touches should they give him, though?

Personally, I’d be thrilled if Cook became an even bigger part of the passing game. Virtually every offensive coordinator wants to find a way of getting their elite playmakers in space; Lil’Kub is surely working on play calls and schemes to accomplish this precise goal. If successful, Lil’Kub could get Cook the same amount of touches without having the same impact on him physically.

Perhaps Lil’Kub could commit to Alexander Mattison as a true goal line back. Fantasy football managers would likely be upset, but Minnesota fans ought to be intrigued by this option. Cook is simply too important to Minnesota’s success to see him wear down.

Lil’Kub might also consider turning to Mattison on obvious passing downs a little more, especially the ones that require the back to stay in to protect Kirk. Every complete back needs to be able to pass protect, so Cook is no exception. That being said, there is very little reason to have Cook taking on blitzing linebackers if there is another strong option.

Conclusion

The Minnesota Vikings will be leaning on their offense to be the strength of their team in 2021, and Dalvin Cook is going to be the centerpiece of their offense. Lil’Kub’s side of the ball will need to be borderline elite for Minnesota to truly compete for a Super Bowl. Finding a productive way of using Cook – getting him plenty of touches while nevertheless keeping him healthy – is going to be a key part of the equation.

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