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How the use of role players gave Vikings offense a boost vs. Phins

EAGAN, Minn. — Over the last five weeks, fullback CJ Ham hasn’t cleared 10 snaps in a game. In fact, the Minnesota Vikings hadn’t used their versatile fullback for more than 15 snaps since Week 4, when they put up 31 points against the Los Angeles Rams. Interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski put an end to that on Sunday, getting Ham involved for 18 snaps and using the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 tight ends for 23 snaps each.

“He’s an incredibly athlete,” tight end David Morgan said of Ham. “People limit him as just a fullback but he can do a lot more than that. When you have a guy who can do a lot of things, it’s hard to keep him off the field. So when he’s helping you out there’s no reason not to have him out there.

Morgan’s return from a knee injury also help boost the Vikings’ running game, which gained over 200 yards. Of his 23 plays, 19 were runs.

“Dave is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL,” rookie tight end Tyler Conklin said. “He’s extremely smart. To be able to have him, that’s one of the reasons we ran the ball so well.”

Conklin led the team in receiving yards with 53 on Sunday and made a key third-and-1 reception. He was one of six receivers to catch passes.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday the team used the same play 10 times in a 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but with different variations. He added that one of the advantages of using bigger personnel packages is giving defenses different looks.

“The more pieces you can put in there and maybe run similar things is good because they’re scouting when Rudolph’s in or [Laquon] Treadwell is in as opposed to [Aldrick] Robinson, so having guys who are versatile who can do a lot of things is important,” he said.

Robinson made two grabs, one of which was a 40-yard touchdown. He has become the vertical threat the Vikings have lacked over the past few seasons, averaging 13.6 yards per catch with five touchdowns out of 17 total receptions.

The veteran receiver said that having the ability to work the ball around to different receivers negates the defense’s ability to focus on one or two players. He alluded to defenses double teaming Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs in key spots throughout the year.

“It keeps them off guard,” Robinson said. “They don’t know what’s coming next. When there’s a lot of guys making plays, it takes away areas of the field….you stack the box or you can’t double this receiver or that receiver on certain plays. It opens up things for everybody.”

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Stefanski, who appears to have carried over many of Pat Shurmur’s 2017 Vikings theories over to his play calling, wanted to work the ball around. Last season 10 players had double-digit receptions.

The use of role players also helped protect quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was pressured just eight times on Sunday.





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