The Minnesota Vikings already have the best running back in the game, so would they really benefit from incorporating a new offensive style that centers around a fast running back? Watching the Oregon Ducks game this Saturday, it occurred to me how unimaginative their offense can be, and how little quarterback Marcus Mariota has to do at times.
Of course, the Vikings would benefit from giving the ball to Adrian Peterson and asking Christian Ponder to do less, but just how much could they do with current personnel? Ponder is surprisingly spry on his feet, meaning he could likely run the quarterback option play where he decides at the line of scrimmage if he will run the ball, or if Peterson will get the handoff.
Ponder wouldn’t be the deep threat running the ball that the Ducks currently have with Mariota, but with Ponder showing significant improvement last year throwing on the run, he could clearly handle making the decision between tucking the ball or tossing it for a short gain. This way, the Vikings would also be able to incorporate the physically gifted Cordarrelle Patterson early on.
This style of offense would also benefit Peterson as defenses would be late to react on the option plays, allowing him to use his speed to get to the corner or find a hole while the defense is still searching for who has the ball. Peterson would also be given the ball in traditional handoffs as well, but defenses would then have to deal with a fullback being in and lead blocking.
The fast nature of the offense is also something that would be interesting for the Vikings to incorporate because it would wear down the defensive line, thus giving Peterson an easier time getting to the second level of the defense and breaking away for a big run.
Other NFL teams have taken the college read-option and incorporated it into their offense and seen success, such as the San Francisco 49ers with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Kaepernick, of course, is more of a running threat than Ponder, but if the Vikings were to adopt the system, they would hopefully use it to get the ball to Peterson in more creative ways as opposed to finding running opportunities for Ponder.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to incorporate a faster-paced offense this season with ex-Oregon coach Chip Kelly now in charge, meaning fans will see if that type of offense can transition to the next level. If the Vikings were to make the decision to go into a read-option offense, they would be able to greatly benefit from the fact that current Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas is expected to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Peterson would, of course, still be the feature back for the Vikings, but Thomas would have the ability to line up at wide receiver as well as running back, where he would be a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. All of this is hypothetical and intriguing, but with Mariota and Thomas likely to be in the next draft, the Vikings have the opportunity to try something new and innovative.