Bow down to the master chef

Dalvin Cook has established himself as one of the best running backs in football

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Besides Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes, Dalvin Cook may be the front runner for league MVP.

Dalvin Cook has arrived. The third-year Vikings running back is here to take over the league while breaking a few ankles along the way. Through three games, ‘The Chef’ has 454 total yards, four touchdowns and is averaging over six yards a carry. RIP to all those who took Joe Mixon before Cook in your fantasy drafts.

Outside of a dude named Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, Cook might be the front runner for league MVP.

In Cook’s two years, he was a fine running back. He would make splashy plays and was fun to watch. He was a good but not great running back that would sometimes disappear from games. So what the heck is going on? We have not seen this speed and force from Cook like we have this year. We have not seen Cook run with such confidence before. Why the sudden change? Let’s speculate.

Health

Cook’s rookie season lasted only four games. In those four games, he looked brilliant, but a torn ACL cut his season short. I was actually at the game that he tore his ACL. I was also at the playoff game Blair Walsh choked away in 2015. Plus, last year I was at the Sunday night game loss to the Saints. Really I should just stop being a Vikings fan because all I bring is bad luck, and at this point, it’s definitely my fault that they’re so disappointing. It would also relieve me of a lot of stres-… Sorry I blacked out there for a second.

Where was I? Oh right, Cook’s ACL tear cost him the majority of his rookie year. When he came back last year, he still was not 100% healthy. His knee was fine, but Cook seemed to get banged up each week. He only played in 11 games last year, and in some of those games, he was an absolute non-factor.

Cook being completely healthy thus far this year has played a big part in his success. His knee looks strong, and he does not appear to have any ailments.

Offensive Line

Last year, the Vikings offensive line was tough to watch. Through injuries and the inability to block, they became one of the most porous offensive lines in the league. Quarterback Kirk Cousins did not have much time to throw, and Cook did not have much room to run.

The offensive line was frustrating to watch because they were clearly the team’s weakest link.

Put any running back legend you want back there, Walter Payton, Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson it would not have mattered. The line was too inept, it would have been tough for any running back to find success.

This year, the Vikings retooled offensive line has at a minimum looked competent. Rookie center Garrett Bradbury should only get better, and 2nd-year tackle Brian O’Neill looks like the real deal. If they can stay healthy, the line should continue to open up holes and give Cook a little daylight to make plays.

Playcalling

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball. I think if it were up to him he would run the ball on every play, regardless of the down and distance.

Zimmer made his intentions very clear when he fired his offensive coordinator John Defilippo last year for not running the ball enough. It is not that the Vikings offense was bad when Defilippo got fired. It’s that the team was not built to win games by slinging the ball around the yard. Zimmer knew this, and that’s why he did what he did.

Now, new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and offensive advisor Gary Kubiak are at the offensive helm. As for running the ball, so far, so good. As a team, the Vikings are second in the league in yards and first in the league in touchdowns on the ground. Plus, only two teams have called more running plays than the Vikings this year thus far.

This has given Cook more than enough opportunities to put his abilities on display. The Vikings offensive runs through him, and he has not disappointed.

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