Four snaps, two carries and 1 yard.
Running back Dalvin Cook’s tiny preseason workload was by design for the Vikings offense, which wanted to preserve the lead back. The Vikings are expected to lean heavily in the regular season on Cook, now more than 11 months removed from a torn ACL in his left knee that stunted a spectacular start to his rookie season.
Cook, 23, achieved his final milestone by being tackled twice Aug. 24 against the Seahawks, including on a 1-yard gain that needed a second effort to move the chains on third down.
“Got that out of the way,” Cook said. “Now it’s just time for everybody to just watch me play football.”
That time has come.
Cook and running back Latavius Murray will make for a formidable duo for the seventh-ranked rushing attack from last year. Even with the $84 million addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings are expected to go as the running game goes. Only five quarterbacks had a better play-action passer rating last season than Case Keenum, according to Pro Football Focus, and one was Cousins in Washington.
To set up those fake handoffs, the Vikings need for the offensive line to again open lanes.
The run game’s zone-heavy scheme especially thrived last year in short-yardage situations. The Vikings’ 76.8 percent success rate (first down or touchdown) running the ball with 1 to 3 yards to go was a vast improvement from 2016’s rate of 62.7 percent — among the league’s worst that season.
Short-yardage success starts with a strong push from the offensive line. Continuity is key to get all five linemen moving in unison, according to co-offensive line coach Clancy Barone. The Vikings did not see their projected starting lineup, with center Pat Elflein still rehabbing, take a single snap together throughout the preseason.
“It’s like you and your brother. They have little code words you come up with, sometimes it’s like that,” Barone said. “If it happens it happens, but if not then we’re fine.”