With questions surrounding how quickly running back Adrian Peterson (left knee) would be back at full strength heading into last season, Toby Gerhart had a chance to move into a significant role for the Minnesota Vikings in his third NFL season. But it was not to be, as Peterson was active for Week 1 and took a few weeks to hit his stride before threatening the single-season record for rushing yards.
Gerhart had 28 carries over the first five games of 2012, but quickly fell to the background as Peterson got back to full strength. For the season Gerhart had just 50 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown along with 20 receptions for 155 yards in largely a third-down role. The 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up filled in capably for Peterson late in the 2011 season, with 85 carries for 413 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 18 catches for 129 yards along with four total touchdowns (three receiving, one rushing) over the final six games of that season. But that is the only time in three seasons Gerhart has had more than 100 carries, and offers a sample of what he could do as a workhorse if given the chance.
Gerhart is entering the final year of his contract in 2013, fueling some speculation that the Vikings may look to trade him as the summer goes on. He would surely like a chance to play more, and that is unlikely to come in Minnesota over the next few years while Peterson further establishes himself as one of the best running backs in league history.
Peterson is not a natural pass catcher or particularly strong in pass protection, so Gerhart has value to Minnesota in those two areas. Barring a significant trade offer from another team at some point during training camp, I expect Gerhart to be back with the Vikings in 2013.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.