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Zulgad’s Roundup: Here’s why the Vikings should sit Dalvin Cook on Sunday against the Lions

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) breaks a tackle by Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the second quarter in Glendale, Ariz. Sept. 19, 2021. Cardinals Vs Vikings

The Vikings face a crucial game on Sunday when they play the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. A loss would drop the Vikings to 1-4 with one game to go, at Carolina, before their bye week. Losses to the Lions and Panthers could lead to Mike Zimmer’s dismissal during the off week.

Despite this possibility, the Vikings would be wise to sit Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook against the Lions and against his wishes. Cook has a sprained right ankle but has vowed to continue playing. After suffering the injury in Week 2 at Arizona and then sitting out the Vikings’ victory over Seattle, Cook returned last week and had only 34 yards rushing on nine carries and two receptions for 10 yards.

He missed a large portion of the second half after tweaking the injury, and did not have the usual burst that makes Cook one of the NFL’s best running backs. Cook has yet to practice this week as the Vikings attempt to manage the injury.

Alexander Mattison stepped in for Cook against the Seahawks and rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries and caught six passes for 59 yards. The Vikings were able to rally from a 10-point deficit in the first half for a 30-17 victory as Kirk Cousins had a fantastic day.

The Seahawks entered Thursday’s game against the Rams last in the NFL in total defense, giving up 444.5 yards per game. The Lions are surrendering 381.3 yards and rank 21st in the league. The Cleveland defense the Vikings faced last Sunday is one of the NFL’s best. Even without Cook, the Vikings should be able to put up points against a Lions defense that is surrendering 29.8 points per game and ranks 29th in the NFL.

The argument for resting Cook is simple. No matter how confident he might be that he isn’t going to do more damage, that can’t be guaranteed. Also, if the Vikings are going to bounce back from their bad start and go on a hot streak they are going to need Cook against teams far superior to the 0-4 Lions.

Coming out of the bye, the Vikings will face Dallas (3-1), Baltimore (3-1), the Chargers (3-1), Green Bay (3-1) and San Francisco (2-2). Cook’s presence on the field will be far more important for those games than it will be for Sunday. With or without Cook, the Vikings should be able to beat the Lions at home. Getting him healthy now, could pay off later.

  • There were many who wondered how anyone could question the Vikings decision to give Cook a five-year, $63 million contract extension ($28.2 million in guarantees) before the 2020 season. There was never a thought that Cook wasn’t an incredibly talented player, but his injury history had to be considered and still does. Cook never played a full season in his first four years and won’t again this year as the schedule expands to 17 games. The Vikings signed Cook knowing he would miss at least two games a season and probably more. The 26-year-old is in the first season of his new contract, but has no guaranteed salary in the final four years of the deal, according to the Over The Cap website.
  • The Vikings acquired tight end Chris Herndon and a sixth-round pick in the 2022 draft from the New York Jets for a 2022 fourth-rounder in August after Irv Smith Jr. was lost (probably for the season) after having meniscus surgery. But four games into the season, the 25-year-old Herndon has no catches and only has been targeted twice by Cousins. After being on the field for 12 snaps in each of the first three games, Herndon was only used for seven snaps last Sunday. Herndon, a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2018, had 31 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games with New York last season.
  • Blocking tight end Ben Ellefson, who was signed by the Vikings on Sept. 1 after being placed on waivers by Jacksonville, does not have a catch but has played 60 snaps compared to the 43 played by Herndon, who is supposed to be a part of the passing game.
  • Interesting talker from Scoop Master Doogie on Mackey & Judd on Thursday: While the Vikings have released 2020 first-round cornerback Jeff Gladney (the 31st pick in the draft), Trevon Diggs is having an outstanding season with Dallas after being the 51st pick in that draft. Diggs leads the NFL with five interceptions. The Vikings’ decision to pass on Diggs might have had to do with the fact that his brother, Stefon, forced his way out of Minnesota after the 2019 season. Doogie mentioned the Vikings didn’t have a lot of interest in Diggs, but were considering taking Utah corner Jaylon Johnson, who went one pick before Diggs to Chicago in the second round. Johnson has an interception and six pass breakups for the Bears in four games. Gladney was let go this summer after he was indicted by a Texas grand jury for felony assault.
  • Before you think I forgot, the Vikings also let former Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr., fall into the second round by taking Gladney. The Buccaneers took the son of the former Vikings standout corner 45th overall. It worked out pretty well for him as he won a Super Bowl in his rookie season.
  • You have to wonder what was going through the minds of Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf — or heck what the conversation was — as they watched the Browns and former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski beat Mike Zimmer’s team with a game plan that looked like it was ripped from the Vikings’ playbook. The difference was the Browns are better up front than Minnesota.
  • Sounds like nose tackle Michael Pierce could be lost for an extended period because of an elbow injury. Pierce was injured in practice last week and, evidently, aggravated the injury against the Browns. The Vikings could move 3-technique Dalvin Tomlinson to nose tackle, a position he played during his time with the Giants, but instead are likely to leave Tomlinson at his new position and move Armon Watts into a starting role.
  • The Wild had an interesting line combination in their penultimate preseason game on Thursday night against Chicago at Xcel Energy Center. After having Victor Rask on the left wing with newcomer Frederick Gaudreau at center and Kevin Fiala on right wing Monday night against Colorado, rookie Matthew Boldy played the left wing on that line. Rask was one of the few regulars to play with the “B” team on Wednesday against St. Louis so he had the night off. But you have to wonder if Boldy could stick as the wing on the Wild’s second line? Winger Adam Beckman also was back in the lineup after playing Wednesday and scoring the overtime winner. That gave him four goals in three preseason games. With forward Rem Pitlick recently added and some young talent emerging, is it possible Rask’s days with the Wild could be coming to an end?
  • Center Marco Rossi, who played Wednesday and Thursday, is almost certain to begin the season playing for the Iowa Wild but the team’s 2020 first-round pick is going to be as good as advertised. He has skills you can’t teach and a willingness to do the dirty work and go to the front of the goal as well. Not bad for a guy who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.
  • The Hockey News yearbook has Kaprizov rated 35th in its list of Top 50 NHL players. He is the only Wild player on a list that is led by Edmonton center Connor McDavid. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Colorado’s Cale Makar round out the top five. Makar is the only defenseman in the top five.
  • As for predictions, the Hockey News has the Wild finishing fifth in the Central and joining Dallas as a wild card team from the Western Conference. The publication has the Avalanche, Jets and Blues finishing in the top three in the Central. The Wild will be eliminated by Vegas for the second consecutive season, according to THN, and the Golden Knights will beat Tampa Bay in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.