The Minnesota Vikings have arguably the NFL’s best running back in Adrian Peterson, but the depth they have behind him took a hit with Toby Gerhart moving on to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. So adding an experienced and versatile backup may still be on Minnesota’s radar before May’s draft, especially as Peterson gets toward the end of his peak as a runner.
Ben Goessling of ESPN.com suggested the Vikings have expressed interest in running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who missed most of last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers after tearing his right ACL in the season opener. Is Stephens-Howling a good fit for the Vikings?
Stephens-Howling spent the first four seasons of his career with the Arizona Cardinals, and he set career-highs in carries (111), rushing yards (357) and rushing touchdowns (four) in 2012 when his offensive role expanded. He had two kickoff return touchdowns in 2010, and he also led the league in kickoff return yards (1,548) that season.
The Vikings’ new running backs coach, Kirby Wilson, served in the same capacity for the Steelers over the last seven seasons. So the chance to work with Wilson may appeal to Stephens-Howling as he attempts to find a fit with any interested teams, while also proving he is on track to be ready for the start of next season.
The key to any serious interest Minnesota has in Stephens-Howling will be the health of his knee, and the team’s medical staff is well-positioned to make a good evaluation of him after Peterson’s recovery from his own significant knee injury a couple years ago. The Vikings should be seeking a back with a different skill set than Peterson’s to serve as his primary backup, and Stephens-Howling fits that bill along with being a potential asset on special teams.