The arrival of offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell has Vikings fans optimistic that standout wide receiver Justin Jefferson will be even more of a factor in 2022. That would be impressive considering Jefferson holds the record for the most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons in the NFL (3,016).
But O’Connell’s new scheme should prove to be beneficial for several offensive players, including veteran running back Dalvin Cook. Like Jefferson, it wasn’t that Cook had any issues getting his hands on the ball under coach Mike Zimmer, but there was always a feeling that Cook had more to offer and could be a matchup nightmare.
We’re about to find out if O’Connell agrees.
Cook has 182 receptions for 1,499 yards and three touchdowns in his first five NFL seasons. That includes a career-high 53 catches for 519 yards in 2019. That’s not nearly as productive as a player like Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who has 373 receptions for 3,263 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first five seasons.
Cook has the potential to be in the backfield on one play and then line up as a receiver on the next, keeping defenses guessing about what the Vikings will do. Cook was used in various wide receiver sets during the Vikings’ Organized Team Activities practice on Tuesday.
“I don’t know, we’ve got to wait and see,” Cook said when asked about his role. “I don’t want to sit up here and just tell you all everything. We’ve got to wait and see. We’ve got Green Bay Week 1, so wait and see.”
Fair enough. The follow up question focused on potential changes to an offense that has had a new offensive coordinator each season that Cook has been in Minnesota.
“That’s every year,” he said. “I’m trying to get better every year and that’s working hard, locking in, just coming in with that mindset of a positive mindset and lead in my own way. So, seeing something new from Dalvin? Yeah, I’m working my tail off, I’m grinding, I’m putting in all the work I need to put in. So, yeah, expect the unexpected, if that’s what you want to call it.”
The most important thing for Cook will be staying healthy. He has missed 25 of a potential 81 regular-season games during his career, including four last season. Cook signed a five-year, $63 million deal that includes $28.125 million in guarantees in 2020, and is set to make a base salary of $8.3 million, with a salary-cap hit of $11.9 million this season.
- Listening to general manager Bill Guerin and Kevin Fiala talk at the Wild’s postseason press conferences this week, you get the impression that the only question now is what Guerin will be able to get in return for the high-scoring winger who disappeared in the playoffs? The Wild enters salary-cap hell for the next three years because of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts and Fiala’s lack of playoff production the past two years probably means Guerin will try to find a buyer (Ottawa? New Jersey? the Islanders?) willing to pay a high price in draft picks or prospects.
- Fiala’s departure would mean all of the players that one-year-and-done GM Paul Fenton got back near the 2019 trade deadline will be gone. Nino Niederreiter was dealt to Carolina for Victor Rask, who was traded to Seattle this season. Charlie Coyle was traded to Boston for Ryan Donato and a conditional draft pick. Donato was sent to the Sharks by Guerin and is now with Seattle. Fiala arrived in the Mikael Granlund trade with Nashville. Niederreiter, Coyle and Granlund are all with those same teams.
- Scoopmaster Darren (Doogie) Wolfson wasn’t kidding on Tuesday when he told us on the “Bonus Scoop” podcast that the Timberwolves were going big in their pursuit of a new president of basketball operations. Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly would be an impressive (and expensive) hire and it sounds as if the Wolves could look elsewhere if Connelly turns them down. While Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez aren’t scheduled to complete their purchase of the Wolves from Glen Taylor until the end of 2023, it’s clear the duo already is driving plenty of the decision-making at Target Center. This likely will be just the start of the attempted splash hires by Lore and A-Rod on both the basketball side and in the business office. Of course, the more splash hires this team makes, and the more games they potentially win, the easier it becomes to begin the discussion of getting a modern arena built.
- It’s interesting to see many defending the Twins trade of closer Taylor Rogers to San Diego for Chris Paddack after the righthanded starter underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow this week. Paddack, who had an injection in his injured elbow late last season, won’t return until 2023. The Twins also acquired reliever Emilio Pagan and gave up Rogers, outfielder Brent Rooker and $6.6 million in cash to help cover Rogers’ salary. The defense of the Paddack trade centers around the fact that he remains under team control (and is arbitration eligible) in 2023 and 2024. That doesn’t account for the fact that this is Paddack’s second Tommy John procedure — the first was in 2016 — and the Twins needed Paddack in their rotation this season. Byron Buxton said as recently as Sunday, this team’s goal is a World Series title. So will the Twins now go and try and get another veteran starter? Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy don’t look like guys you want starting playoff games.
- Once the Twins start to play some competent teams again, it will be interesting to see if they keep Royce Lewis in Triple-A, or if they realize it might be a good idea to try to field a roster of players who give them a chance to win more games this season. I saw a reference to the fact the optics of the Lewis’ demotion looked bad but the Twins don’t care about optics. The problem isn’t the optics to the fans, it’s the optics to the clubhouse. Sending down a guy who just homered, doubled and made a great play at shortstop, tells the current players that development for later is more important than winning now. You can dismiss the fan base all you want — personally, I think that’s a bad idea — but dismiss what the clubhouse thinks and you’ve got problems.
- If you want to see Lewis play, the Saints return to St. Paul starting next Tuesday morning (11:07 a.m.) to open a series against Indianapolis at CHS Field.