A lot of talk since he joined the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff has been on who will be Norv Turner‘s quarterback. The Vikings are seemingly without a starting quarterback for next season as Christian Ponder is the only QB under contract after Matt Cassel voided his 2014 option just last week. While the choosing of a quarterback is a monumental task that will define this franchise for years, Turner may also be looking to bring in Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas.
Turner effectively used both Darren Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson during his tenure as the San Diego Chargers head coach, and he may look to create a similar situation in Minnesota. The Vikings have an aging Adrian Peterson on the roster, who at 28-years-old is the same age as Tomlinson was when Sproles began making an impact from the backfield.
Thomas is a similar player to Sproles in that they are both under 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and are hybrid-style running backs that are just as effective catching the ball as carrying it. Thomas doesn’t have the frame to carry the ball 20+ times a game, making him a perfect addition to a Vikings squad that is losing backup running back Toby Gerhart to free agency.
While Peterson is still on top of his game despite rushing for “just” 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season, it would be smart to take some pressure off the 28-year-old who is currently recovering from groin surgery. If the way Turner used Tomlinson in San Diego is any indication of how he will use Peterson in Minnesota, the 217-pound back will see an increase in red zone touches, effectively giving him more touchdowns.
In Turner’s first season in San Diego, Tomlinson led the league in rushing touchdowns (15) and had over 300 carries for the seventh straight season. After that, however, Tomlinson experienced a decline in effectiveness on the football field and saw a drop in carries over the next two years playing under Turner despite still finishing with double-digit touchdown totals.
As it happened, right when Tomlinson’s career began its downturn Turner began to use Sproles in a way that very few coaches had ever done. He routinely sent Sproles out of the backfield looking for the pass, and in the four seasons Turner and Sproles worked together the shifty running back saw an increase in receptions each and every season. Some think Thomas is already a better receiver than running back and coming to Minnesota would allow him to showcase his ball catching talents.
The Vikings have a vacancy in the backfield behind Peterson, and with Turner having success with a hybrid running back in Sproles it’s very conceivable he looks to bring in De’Anthony Thomas in one of the middle to late rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft.