Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton returns from a three-game suspension this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his presence in the lineup should help improve the NFL’s 13th-ranked rushing offense.
Adrian Peterson, with the exception of his two fumbles, has had a solid start to the season, but statistics tell you that the All-Pro running back benefits greatly when Felton is on the field with him. Last season, Peterson averaged 6.9 yards per carry when Felton was the fullback and 4.6 yards when he was not on the field.
Zach Line and Rhett Ellison have done an admirable job in Felton’s absence, but Peterson isn’t the same without Felton leading the charge. Line showcased his talent in the team’s preseason games, but has yet to translate into a steady role in the Minnesota Vikings’ lineup. I’m not saying that Peterson needs Felton for him to be at his best, but last year’s MVP season showed that the two made a great combination in the backfield.
That being said, Felton’s impact on the Vikings’ running game won’t flourish unless the offensive line plays better. Peterson has averaged only four yards per carry the last two games, which only happened three times all of last season. Look for the Vikings’ offensive line, with a mix of talented veterans and younger players, to improve their play as the season progresses.
The Vikings are one of the few teams in the NFL whose offensive game plan revolves around their rushing attack, and with a valuable piece of that unit coming back from suspension, hopefully they create some of last season’s magic.