Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been dealing with a groin strain for a few weeks now, and after the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend, Peterson admitted the injury was holding him back. That led head coach Leslie Frazier to say he is “cautiously optimistic” the team’s leading rusher would play against the Green Bay Packers this weekend. This means Toby Gerhart, who ran for 67 yards on just seven carries last week, will have an increased workload on Sunday and have the opportunity to audition for a big contract in the offseason.
Gerhart is in the last year of his rookie contract, and given he has excelled in the backup role for three and a half years now, he will likely be eyeing a more prominent role whilst a free agent this coming offseason. The Vikings will still be giving Peterson the bulk of the carries for the foreseeable future, and Gerhart simply wouldn’t have a big enough role for him to be interested in staying, most likely.
This all means Gerhart will be presented with his biggest opportunity this Sunday against the Packers and their unimpressive run defense. The Packers gave up over 200 yards on the ground to the Philadelphia Eagles‘ run-heavy offense two weeks ago, but against the Chicago Bears the week prior, they gave up a total of 171 yards on the ground, meaning the two-headed attack of Peterson and Gerhart should carry the Vikings’ offense this weekend.
Peterson shouldn’t have a very prominent role on Sunday, if he plays that is, as Gerhart is a bruising runner who is somewhat of a threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Gerhart can handle the bulk of the workload, and should surpass the century mark this weekend for just the second time in his career if given enough carries.
The Packers’ base 3-4 defense will proved Gerhart plenty of running lanes as B.J. Raji is underperforming this season, and right defensive end Mike Daniels is the only player according to Pro Football Focus to make a sizable impact against the run this season. This shouldn’t be too big of a difficulty for the Vikings, however, as they should be running away from Daniels, and behind the right side of their offensive line which is made up of Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt.
Loadholt and Fusco rate as the best run blockers the Vikings have according to PFF, meaning the majority of the carries should be to the right side of the field come Sunday. The Vikings have questions at the quarterback position once again with Christian Ponder being benched mid-game last week, meaning the team must take advantage of every possible Green Bay weakness.
Recently, the Vikings have been forced to almost abandon the run as they have fallen behind early in games, and thus had to throw the ball in order to play catch-up. The Packers will likely be without Aaron Rodgers again this weekend, meaning the Vikings’ secondary will get a much needed break from pass-heavy offenses. With Rodgers out, the Packers will run the ball with Eddie Lacy more, meaning the Vikings can afford to establish the run game early with Peterson and Gerhart.