Vikings Don’t Trust Promising RB Prospect, Urged to Sign Veteran: Insider

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings coach Kevin O'Connel during the team's 2023 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Minnesota Vikings made a bet that they could replace Dalvin Cook by committee this offseason, and it appears they may not be sold on their options behind starter Alexander Mattison.

Purple Insider’s Matthew Coller, recapping the Vikings’ preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans on August 19, wasn’t encouraged by the performance of Ty Chandler, going as far as saying he doesn’t think the Vikings trust the second-year back yet.

Chandler took a team-high 11 carries for just 24 yards behind a poor performance by the reserve offensive line on Saturday night. Regardless of statistics, the most important point of emphasis for Chandler is showing more consistency in hitting his gaps and picking up his pass-blocking assignments.

“The running back depth behind Madison just does not look good and I don’t think they trust Chandler and we really didn’t get a chance to see him do anything tonight because they couldn’t block,” Coller said on the “Purple Insider” podcast.

Minnesota has less than 10 days to decide whether its content with the running back room after hosting veterans Mike Davis and Kareem Hunt earlier this month.

Coller added that dependent on how the final preseason game and joint practices with the Arizona Cardinals go, the Vikings should consider signing one of the two veteran backs who have proven they can play in the NFL.

Kevin O’Connell Addresses Ty Chandler’s Development

Ty Chandler

GettySecond-year running back Ty Chandler.

Following the Vikings’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Kevin O’Connell credited Chandler for his performance while also offering where the 2022 fifth-round pick needs to improve.

“He’s just in his second year, and we’re asking a lot of him. And he’s getting reps with our first group where we’re moving pretty quick, we’re getting the full ‘Brian Flores experience’ on a daily basis, so there’s a lot of moving parts to that,” O’Connell said in a postgame media conference. “And the consistency factor, it’s one of those things that, that’s how you ultimately prove that last phase. It’s clear Ty has unbelievable physical talent with his speed, his vision and his burst, and his ability to make defenders miss – which he’s proven time and time again in those competitive situations.”

Chandler has taken 22 carries for 65 yards, averaging 2.95 yards per carry in the preseason.

O’Connell has often looked at the positives at the press podium as part of the healthier culture under the new regime, but the team’s actual usage of its running backs is revealing of whether the group is ready to succeed Cook.

Vikings Did Not Trust Physically Gifted Backup RBs Last Season

Kene Nwangwu

Courtesy of VikingsKene Nwangwu saw the field in limited fashion in 2022 despite being one of the fastest players in the NFL.

The Vikings undoubtedly have a physically-gifted backfield. Kene Nwangwu is one of the fastest players in the NFL and has the most kickoff return touchdowns by any player since 2021.

Chandler ran a 4.38 40-time at the combine and has shown he’s capable as a receiving threat as well.

Neither back was truly relied upon last season in relief of Cook.

Chandler played just 12 snaps on offense last season in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears. Nwangwu, who has sat out the past two weeks with an injury in training camp, saw just 18 offensive snaps across three games, 10 of which came in that game at Soldier Field.

Both backups’ speed would have been a considerable change-of-pace from Cook and Mattison, but neither was trusted when there were real stakes in the game.

The physical nature of the running back position cannot be bet against, and if Mattison were to go down, the lack of experience behind him is concerning.

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