EAGAN, Minn. — Dalvin Cook was nearly unstoppable on the ground against the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The problem: He only rushed the ball nine times for 84 yards.
Asked why the run was not as effective as the game went along, head coach Mike Zimmer said, “lack of consistency, I would say.”
The Vikings’ 2017 second-round pick has had an up and down season that included a hamstring injury that slowed him down for five weeks and hot-and-cold production in John DeFilippo’s offense.
While he is averaging nearly the same yards per carry, Cook has rushed for just 44 yards per game after putting together 88 per contest in his first four games of 2017. His attempts are down from 18.5 to 10.6.
Zimmer has mentioned in recent weeks his desire to stick with the running game, but Cook hasn’t rushed more than 10 times in a game since Week 1.
“The carries thing and all that, if I get two, five, 10, I’m just trying to make a play to help my team win,” Cook said on Monday. “Wasn’t surprised by anything that happened in the game, coach [DeFilippo] has been calling greats calls all year.”
Cook gained 89 yards against the Detroit Lions and was strong against the Pats, but picked up only 41 yards on 19 carries in the two games in between.
“If we can be consistent with it, we can be special,” Cook said.
One week after he took a 26-yard screen pass into the end zone against the Green Bay Packers and gained 47 total receiving yards on three catches, Cook was largely a checkdown option against the Pats, gaining just 22 yards on 10 targets.
Cook has not been used often in the vertical passing game — something he occasionally did at Florida State — and his usage at wide receiver has been limited to only 15 plays out of 300 total snaps.
Notice from this NFL NextGen chart his passes from Sunday’s game are all underneath.
Zimmer said that was not the plan.
“We had other plays designed to get him the football that weren’t checkdowns but the ball didn’t get to him,” he said.
There have been times throughout the year the Vikings attempted to use Cook on a limited snap count, but that has not been the case lately. He was on the field for 46 plays against New England, 36 against Green Bay and 56 in Chicago.
“I feel great,” he said. “Just getting back in the groove of things, getting the ball in my hands and making plays out there at my full strength and my full-go.”
With the team struggling to produce big offensive numbers in key games against the Bears and Pats, the spotlight will be on DeFilippo going forward to find more ways to consistently succeed with Cook.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” Zimmer said of DeFilippo. “We talk all the time, we talk about things, what I think are important. And I think he tries to do those.”