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Minnesota’s third-year running back is off to a fine start this season. In its impressive win over the Falcons last weekend, Minnesota dialed up an extremely run-heavy offensive strategy: 38 running plays produced 172 yards, for a 4.5-yard average; QB Kirk Cousins passed but ten times, completing eight, for 98 yards.

I believe that Kevin Stefanski, who’s been a coach in Minnesota for 13 years, is now the play caller for head coach Mike Zimmer’s team. Zimmer is 63, while Stefanski is only 37.

Dalvin Cook got the call 21 times for 111 yards (5.3 average) against the Falcons. His rookie understudy, Alexander Mattison, spelled him for nine carries, netting 49 yards and a 5.4-yard average. Cook, at 5’10” and 210 pounds, is not as big as I thought – though he’s rugged, he relies on speed more than power to swallow up big chunks of yardage. Mattison, a rookie Round 3 pick, is a bruising 5’11” 220-pound back out of Boise State – though he might only get significant action if the score becomes lopsided.

Cook turned in a 4.49 second dash time at the NFL Combine, putting him in the 70th percentile for running backs. His 22 bench presses landed him in the 72nd percentile, though his other combine stats were substandard. In the two key agility drills, Cook landed in the 10th and 6th percentiles – he’s a straight-line runner. The Vikings chose Cook early in the second round (41st overall) in the 2017 draft.

As worrisome as Cook can be, last week’s game was only the third time he’s reached 100 yards in two-plus years. Until then, Cook had almost as many lost fumbles (3) as he had rushing touchdowns (4). There’s a good reason: the win over the Falcons was only the sixteenth pro game he’s played in. A torn ACL prematurely ended his rookie season, and he also missed five games in 2018.

The Minnesota rushers did most of their damage on lengthy runs. Cook had jaunts of 22, 21, and 19 yards, while Mattison reeled off runs of 23 and 17 yards. Cook ran for two touchdowns, and he also caught two passes for nine yards. Here’s some encouragement: take away those five lengthy runs, and the duo of Cook and Mattison gained only 58 yards in their other 25 runs.

RB Dalvin Cook - Vikings vs Packers

Nov 25, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs in the second quarter against Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A look at Cook’s highlight reel (here) shows him using his speed to get into wide-open space outside the tackles, but it also reveals a woeful Falcons’ defense. Cook routinely got from six to 15 yards downfield before being touched by a defender.

Before the end of the third quarter, Cook had already reached the 100-yard mark and the score was 28-0. Cousins didn’t throw a pass in the final quarter.

In 2018 the Falcons defense was fifth worst in total yardage allowed, eight worst in rushing yardage allowed, and tied for third worst at rushing yards given up per carry (4.9) – so they’ve picked up where they left off. After just this one wretched defensive effort, I’m ready to count a team that includes Matt Ryan and Julio Jones out of the playoff hunt this season. Offensively, the Falcons weren’t any better, with two passes intercepted, one fumble lost, and, for good measure, they had a punt blocked. Julio’s line was: 11 targets, six catches, 31 yards.

Cook, like Adrian Peterson before him, is no role model. While in college, he was criminally charged regarding shooting out car windows with a BB gun, he was involved in an allegation of brandishing a firearm at a neighbor, and he was accused of punching a woman outside a bar in Tallahassee. A jury found him not guilty of the latter charge, allowing him to be reinstated to the Florida State football team. That college-town jury must be big Seminoles rooters.

The Vikes had another RB who was carried over from 2018, Roc Thomas. However, when his Mendota Heights apartment was raided by police, they found “five ounces of marijuana and other items.” The NFL suspended him for three games, Minnesota waived him, and in August he was waived again (with an injury settlement), by the Jaguars. Seems harsh – depending on what the other items were.

Since Cook thrives on racing to the outside, the Packers will need to counter him with speed of their own – and they have plenty of it. We’ll see if DBs Darnell Savage, Tony Brown, Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and others, are up to the challenge.

The inside linebackers will also be a key to slowing down Cook. Alongside rock-steady Blake Martinez, the choice will be between Raven Greene and new arrival B.J. Goodson. Oren Burks – very fast for a true linebacker – is still recovering from a hyperextended pectoral muscle – he’ll be missed in this encounter.

If the Packers can keep Cook from making a bunch of 10+ yards runs – and the same can be said about the Vikings and Aaron Jones – Cook should not be a difference maker on Sunday.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Stiggy September 13, 2019

    Thielen is who worries me most. Diggs and Rudolph are a close second.

  2. Kato September 13, 2019

    Stopping Cook is absolutely key. I love the front 7s matchup against the offensive line. I don’t see the Vikings pass attack gaining a whole lot of traction. If they stop Cook, the Vikings will not score more than 10 points. Question is, can the offense score?

  3. Ferris September 13, 2019

    Hey Falcons…next time you are up 28-3 in the Super Bowl play better and don’t meltdown.
    Signed Mike McCarthy who blew a big lead in the NFC Championship game in 2014

    Falcons how far they have fallen. But here is a fun highlight in Falcons history. Still couldn’t win the big game though.

  4. Deepsky September 13, 2019

    Cook sounds like the type of guy the Vikings look for. It is Vikings week, so let’s review the list of the Vikings players that have been arrested since 2000:

    Roc Thomas, Cayleb Jones, Antwione Williams, Isame Faciane, Jabari Price, Tom Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Jerome Simpson, Erin Henderson, A.J. Jefferson, Jerome Felton, Caleb King, Benny Snap, Chris Cook, Tyrell Johnson, Brett Bomar, Everson Griffen, Cedric Griffin, Bryant McKinnie, Darrion Scott, Dwight Smith, Ronyell Whitaker, Travis Taylor, Dwight Smith, Koren Robinson, Duante Culpepper, Fred Smoot, Moe Willliams, Marcus Johnson, Kelly Campbell, Steve Farmer, E.J. Henderson, Mike Nattiel, Kenny Mixon, Randy Moss, John Davis, and Chris Walsh.

    By they way, not only were the Falcons bad at stopping the run last year, they have a new defensive line coach, were putting in a new scheme, and lost Bruce Irvin in free agency.

    1. Kato September 13, 2019

      Bryant McKinnie was the best

  5. Howard September 13, 2019

    The reason Cook was racing to the outside is because:
    (1) The Defensive ends for the Falcons were not holding contain. I believe the Smith’s will do a much better job holding the edge.
    (2) the Vikings through motion and then pulling their guards were getting numbers to the outside on the Falcons.
    (3) when the Vikings pulled their guards and the Falcons tried to shoot the gap, the center who was uncovered, did a good job of cutting off the shooting D lineman. Cover the center up with a nose or a linebacker. The Packer’s Five man front should cover up the center and allow Packer D linemen to shoot gaps when the Vikings pull linemen.
    The Packers have a much stouter front five than the Falcons. Those runs or races to the edge will not occur as easy as they did against the Falcons.

  6. Slide September 13, 2019

    Cook didn’t do squat in either game against the Pack last year, and if the Packers run defense looks as stout as it did last week against the Bears, the Queens running game shouldn’t be much of a factor. Kirk Cousins on the other hand, overpaid as he might be, still racked up over 750 yards and 7 touchdowns in two games against GB last year. Let’s hope Pettine has the defense prepared to be up to the task vs the pass this time around.

  7. KILLER September 14, 2019

    Need to correct and/or expand on a few things you wrote, Rob. Accuracy is important!

    Your first three paragraphs were fine. Fair. The fourth was factually accurate but mistaken in conclusion. You concluded that Dalvin Cook is a straight line runner. Not hardly, friend!

    Check it out:


    Did you see that? That “straight line” where he ran towards the left side, then turned it upfield making a tackler miss, then how he twisted that straight line into a COMPLETE CIRCLE making a defender look silly, then how he dragged the straight line all the way across to the right side of the field and then curved the straight line so as to run in for the TD. Cook! He works some real magic with those straight lines! You don’t need to take my word for it thouhg you guys know I always tell it true. Go to the link and see it true.

    A further clarification on Cook’s athletic talents though I don’t blame you for not knowing these things. His speed was clocked at 4.49 but he is faster than that. Why do I say that? It is in game with the pads on that counts. Last year, just coming back from an ACL injury, Cook had THE fastest recorded touchdown in the NFL. All season. No one faster. Not Tyreek Hill or well anyone. So his game filed speed is beyond premiere. (And, no, that does not mean he is a “straight line runner”.)

    Cook also has uncanny vision. I used to think “vision” could not be measured. I was wrong. This video explains that and also further illuminates Cook’s speed:


    You went into some character assassination, something we’ve been seeing more and more from you, Rob. Not just of Cook. You even assassinated 12 jury members! You go for it! You simply conclude that when Cook was found not guilty of a crime, on account of how he is black a Minnesota Viking, well then, obviously the jury were college football fans who let him off the hook despite knowing he was guilty. Quite the conclusion Rob! Just… WOW!

    Here is some more on Cook’s deep dark criminal past. That neighborhood, anyone not dead or in prison by his age is more or less a saint/hero. You’ll note that the assault you say Cook was let off the hook by a biased jury that Cook was actually going to the defense of a teammate and trying to defuse a situation that had nothing to do with him.


    The important things you did not cover — he has been an ideal citizen for about four years now, is a great teammate, dedicated, on time, polite, hard working. Your article seems to try to make him out to be some monster all the Packers fans should enjoy trying to hate. I think that is your actual purpose and motivation with your insinuations, disparagement, and assassinations.