The Minnesota Vikings have a good problem coming out of their preseason opener.
In a 26-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on August 14, the Vikings running back room looks loaded, resembling what could be the deepest group since the 2017 season.
Kene Nwangwu, a 2021 fourth-round pick out of Iowa State, picked up where he left off after landing on All-Rookie Team last season. Nwangwu took seven carries for 41 yards, while Ty Chandler, a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, was the star of the show, racking up 50 yards on five carries. The duo combined for 90 yards on just 12 carries.
Then there’s Alexander Mattison.
Mattison, entering the final year of his rookie contract after being drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft, tallied just eight yards on three totes despite being a proven, starting-caliber back in the league.
However, Vikings fans, captivated by the showing of shiny new toys in Nwanwgu and Chandler, began trashing Mattison on Twitter.
And Mattison clapped back, respectfully.
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‘Keep That Same Energy’
Following August 14’s preseason opener, fans began to chatter about Mattison’s less-than-stellar showing and the Vikings’ depth at the running back position.
Just because there is competition at running back wouldn’t normally warrant a player like Mattison, who is arguably one of the best backup running backs in the league. However, with Cook under contract through the 2024 season, Mattison poised to reach free agency next January and the solid depth under the team’s top two backs, Minnesota may need to consider a trade to get something for Mattison.
“Hear us out – we love Alexander Mattison, but unless MIN is going with Mattison over Cook next year, they will lose him [in free agency],” @VikesFans tweeted. “Ty Chandler looks very capable and maybe we can get center help for Mattison.”
“If Alexander Mattison is at any risk of losing his backup job in a contract year, the Vikings have to trade him,” another fan tweeted.
The Vikings, who have some uncertainty at the backup quarterback position could leverage Mattison in a trade.
Some fans began to call Mattison “boring” compared to the speedy Nwangwu and versatility of Chandler, to which Mattison replied with a laughing emoji.
Mattison has taken in a lot of fan chatter over the past 24 hours and addressed the matter.
“I don’t mind the disrespect, just make sure y’all keep that same energy,” he tweeted.
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Mattison to Test Free Agency for RB1 Role
On August 10, Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson tweeted that he doesn’t expect Mattison to sign a contract extension with the Vikings before the season, which would ultimately send the Boise State product out to free agency for the first time in his career.
“Mattison said he’s ‘not aware’ of there being any contract talks. Indications are he could test market & see if he can land RB1 job,” Tomasson added.
Mattison has shown he’s capable of being the premier back in an NFL offense as the backup for Cook. In six starts over the past two seasons, Mattison has averaged 115.5 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. He surpassed 100 rushing yards in two of those games, and posted over 90 rushing yards in four of his six starts.
While Mattison is less explosive than Cook, he’s proven to be a reliable replacement in the Vikings run game and is also the thunder of the Vikings backfield at 215 pounds.
However, if the younger backs are gaining ground for the RB2 position, exploring trade talks would be a wise move for the new regime that has other questions on the roster.