One play was all it took to remind the NFL who Dalvin Cook is.
The Minnesota Vikings star running back battled injuries in 2018 and slid into relative obscurity. Then came Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. Cook took his first carry of the season 21 yards, slicing through the second level of the defense and picking up a few extra by trucking Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones.
Power back Dalvin Cook w the HIT STICK on Deion Jones 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/59Oj9QSB14
— Luke Inman (@Luke_SpinmanNFL) September 9, 2019
Before the game, Jones was asked about keeping up with Dalvin Cook’s speed. His response: “Yeah, I’m good.”
Deion Jones on keeping up with Vikings RB Dalvin Cook’s speed: “I’m good.” pic.twitter.com/b41FdaxRXk
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 4, 2019
What Jones didn’t foresee was the force of Cook could create. Cook recently sat down with NFL Network’s Kurt Warner and Brian Baldinger for a film session where he broke down the play (you will need to redirect to Youtube due to NFL restrictions).
“I think he don’t think I seen him and he was trying to catch a hit from the side,” Cook said. “That’s just the type of blow I was trying to deliver on him. I delivered the blow, protected myself and was ready to deliver it.”
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The Evolution of Dalvin Cook’s Footwork
During the film session, Cook opened up about his season-ending injury in Week 4 of 2017 and pointed to a mistake he made as a rookie that he’s since learned from.
Running with a full head of steam, Cook approached Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson and tried to juke Wilson. Cook’s hesitation and added stutter steps caused his leg to give out, tearing his ACL.
He since corrected the mistake by simply trusting his speed. An exemplary play was in Vikings’ Week 2 game against the Green Bay Packers. Cook reached Packers safety Darnell Savage, baited his inside leg then slipped back into stride and around a diving Savage who had already committed to making a tackle.
DALVIN COOK 💨
75-YARD HOUSE CALL
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 15, 2019
The play signals a change in philosophy for the 24-year-old running back who used to love to make defenders miss in college and now has shifted gears — either running past or through his defenders.
No Back Better After the Catch Than Dalvin Cook
Cook’s unique blend of speed and physicality may be key to keeping himself healthy as his new approach of running through defenders seemed to work last season. He played 14 games and averaged 118 yards from scrimmage per game — second to only Christian McCaffrey.
His work is the passing game contributed to his success as no other running back was better after the catch. Not even receiving backs like McCaffrey or Austin Eckler. He was significantly better on passes caught behind the line of scrimmage as well.
While it’s up for debate on how much the Vikings should throw the ball to targets behind the line of scrimmage, Cook made the most of the situation, turning 11 screen passes into gains of 15 or more yards, also a league-best mark. No other running back in the NFL had more than six gains of 15 or more yards of screen passes.
Cook’s proven to be an elite running back talent and these stats serve as leverage in his ongoing contract negotiations.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire