The Minnesota Vikings got off to a nice start against the Detroit Lions in Week 1, as running back Adrian Peterson went 78 yards for a touchdown on their first offensive play. But the reigning NFL MVP only had just 15 yards on his next 17 carries, as the offensive line struggled to contain a good Lions’ defensive line and the lead blocking ahead of Peterson suffered with fullback Jerome Felton serving the first of his three-game suspension to start the season.
Zach Line saw a lot of time at fullback in Felton’s place (17 snaps, per 1500 ESPN.com), but he was often overmatched as a lead blocker in his first NFL game. Tight end Rhett Ellison (10 snaps) helped spring Peterson for his long touchdown run, and it can be assumed he’ll see more time in front of Peterson starting Sunday against the Chicago Bears. But is someone else on the roster a possible backfield mate for Peterson?
Toby Gerhart played just five snaps last week against the Lions, and he did not have a carry or a catch in the game. I’m not suggesting Gerhart be on the field in place of Peterson a lot, but I question why they can’t be used together.
Gerhart is not a traditional fullback in the vein of Felton or Vonta Leach, but he has proven capable when given an extended opportunity to play and can provide another running threat for opposing defenses to at least consider. Things would have to change once Felton returns, but over the next two games it should not be out of the question for Gerhart to share a backfield with Peterson for a few plays.
I’ve beaten this drum over and over, but I think Gerhart’s lack of playing time last Sunday is another example of the lack of imagination the Vikings’ coaching staff has. With the offense struggling all-around against Detroit, with 6 of 13 drives ending without a first down and over one-third of their offensive yards (330) coming on two plays (a 47-yard reception by wide receiver Jerome Simpson, along with Peterson’s touchdown run), any possibility to put more talent on the field more often should be considered. I just don’t expect it to happen, at least in regard to Gerhart playing more going forward.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.