COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Vikings have a temporary hitch in their running game, specifically regarding a lead blocker for Adrian Peterson. Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton will miss the next two games while he finishes serving his three game suspension. The absence of Felton was felt dearly this past Sunday and the Vikings need to utilize the fullback position better this upcoming week.
Last season, Peterson averaged 6.9 yards per rush with Felton as the fullback compared to only 4.6 yards without the premier blocker.
With Felton out, the Vikings went with numerous different run formations, featuring both Zach Line and Rhett Ellison as the lead blocker. While Ellison did a manageable job, Zach Line was beyond brutal.
With Ellison leading the way, Peterson had rushes of 78 (Touchdown), 4 (Touchdown), 1, and 2 yards. In total, Ellison paved the way for four rushes for 85 of Peterson's 93-rushing yards. Peterson got a key block from Ellison as he sealed Lions' linebacker DeAndre Levy on the 78-yard touchdown run to open the game.
But if Ellison did such a good job, why did Peterson struggle the rest of the game?
Bring on the combination of no fullback and Zach Line.
Line, an undrafted rookie from Southern Methodist University (SMU), isn't ready to be a fullback at the NFL level. He missed blocks left and right, belly flopped, and stumbled around as he failed to pave any type of a path for the league MVP.
Line ended up being a lost body as he led the way for Peterson on seven rushing attempts. With Line as Peterson's lead blocker, Peterson had rushes of -3, -4, 0 , 7, -1, 1, and 5 yards. In total, Peterson rushed for only 5 yards with Line as the fullback, including three rushes of negative yardage. It was a poor effort by Line as Peterson had a hole on multiple rushing attempts, but Line simply missed his block. Line was simply not physical at the point of attack and was hindrance to the Vikings running game.
It was even worse when Peterson had no fullback. In Peterson's seven rushes with no fullback, he accumulated only three yards on those carries. Despicable blocking didn't help Peterson as the Vikings tried multiple run formations, including the pistol formation.
It's hard to put the blame on Zach Line considering he has never played fullback at such a high level. It's much easier to put the blame on the coaching staff for not continuing to ride Rhett Ellison, or even try Matt Asiata at the fullback position. Asiata, the current third-string running back, has played fullback before and isn't afraid to lay a hit on a linebacker.
For the Vikings, the return of Jerome Felton cannot come soon enough. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings address the fullback situation this upcoming week as the Vikings head to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.
Felton will return to practice in time for the Vikings game in London, England against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dennis Parsons is a Minnesota-area sportswriter covering the Minnesota Vikings for Vikings Central. He previously covered all Minnesota professional sports teams for Minnesota Sports News Nightly. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @Parsons_VC.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Adrian Peterson
- Minnesota Vikings
- Jerome Felton
- Rhett Ellison
- Zach Line