Stefanski, Vikings pleased with rookie RB Mattison’s production
The Minnesota Vikings rushing attack has turned some heads this season.
Ranked 30th in the NFL last year, a healthy Dalvin Cook paired with a new-look offensive line has propelled the Vikings to rank third in 2019 with an average of 166.4 yards on the ground per game.
But when Cook needs a breather, the Vikings have turned to Alexander Mattison. Thanks to the rookie’s strong play, the running game hasn’t taken a step back when Cook is on the sidelines.
Selected in the third round out of Boise State, Mattison was brought in to shoulder the load that backup Latavius Murray left behind when he departed to New Orleans in free agency. Like Murray, Mattison brings something different to the running backs room.
“He provides a similar but different running style than Dalvin,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “So, I think that’s always good when you’re attacking a defense to give them a slightly different look.”
Mattison is coming off the best game of his young career. During a 28-10 win over the New York Giants, Mattison turned seven carries into 52 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per touch.
He’s already gained the trust of Stefanksi, who is now carving out a role for the back in the weekly game plan.
“Ultimately, we have a number (of carries) that we’re looking for both of those guys,” Stefanksi said. “But as you know during a series, Dalvin rips one off and he needs a blow, so very quickly Mattison jumps in there and we don’t really change what we’re doing or change our mindset.”
Mattison has played anywhere from 10% to one-third of the Vikings’ offensive snaps, getting more looks in games when the Vikings are leading and can afford to rest Cook.
“He goes out there and he performs,” Stefanski said. “There’s not much of a drop off from one to two, which is a really good thing for us, and we’re looking to get him some work.”
Minnesota’s suddenly touted rushing attack will be put to the test Sunday against Philadelphia, which boasts stars in the trenches like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
The Eagles are allowing a league-best 63.0 yards on the ground per game. No running back has logged more than 44 rushing yards against Philadelphia this year, a list that includes talented players like Le’Veon Bell, Kerryon Johnson, Devonta Freeman and Aaron Jones.
Last week, Philadelphia held Bell to 15 carries for 43 yards. Eleven of Bell’s 22 touches went for two yards or less.
“They have really good players and I think the scheme is sound,” Stefanski said of Philadelphia’s run defense. “It’s an attacking style. They get off the ball and tackle well.”
“They’re attacking gaps and they’re trying to disrupt. We know that. We’ve looked at the film and we have to be ready to match their intensity.”