Digging Deeper On RB2 Situation

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 1, 2010 – 9:53 am

In a blog entry on Monday we included comments from Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress regarding the #2 RB position, with the head coach characterizing Toby Gerhart and Albert Young as “2 and 2A” (he didn’t identify who is 2 and who is 2A). Essentially Childress said that both players will be used regularly and the playing time will be determined on a game-to-game or even play-to-play basis, depending on personnel, play-calling and injury situations.

This strategy runs a bit contrary to how Vikings observers have viewed the situation all offseason. What I mean by that is media and fans have been looking for indications on who would replace Chester Taylor in the role of complementing star RB Adrian Peterson. This search including veterans (LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook), current Vikings (Albert Young) and prospective draft picks (C.J. Spiller, Jahvid Best, etc.).

Ultimately, the Vikings will use a combination of the options listed above, with Gerhart (draft pick) and Young (current player) being relied upon to fulfill the role Taylor held for the past 3 seasons. If there was any doubt that the Vikings were truly using that strategy, even after Childress explained it earlier this week, that doubt should now be erased given how offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell addressed the issue after practice on Tuesday.

“It may end up having to be by committee,” Bevell explained. “There will be times when Adrian’s in there, there will be times when Albert’s in there, depending on the game. It may have to be Toby that’s in there. We’ve been trying to go kind of like that, in terms of getting all three of them ready, seeing what the strengths and weaknesses are of all those guys. I think it’s still formulating itself right now.”

The loss of Taylor is significant, but it can also be managed and the key to managing it is something Bevell referenced on Tuesday – “seeing what the strengths and weaknesses are of all those guys.” Both Gerhart and Young are talented enough to make the Vikings roster, so the fact that it could end up taking both of them to fill the role of Peterson’s complement is not a bad thing. In fact, it gives the Vikings a great chance to develop depth at the RB position.

But the Vikings do need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each of their RBs and then deploy the players in the offense appropriately, so they are able to neutralize the weaknesses and capitalize on the strengths.

“I feel like I’m gaining a better understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Bevell acknowledged. “It was good to see Adrian pick up after the 49ers game to pick up a couple pressures last week. He was strong at the point (of attack). He did some good things there. I kind of know where Albert is. We’ve been able to move Toby in there a little bit as well. [We’re] learning their strengths and weaknesses but it may depend on how the game plan shapes up. It may depend on who’s up and down. Sometimes we only went with two backs last year and that may solve your problem.”

As my buddy Paul Allen pointed out on his show page, Young is effective in pass protection and that is on tape. And based on what Bevell said Tuesday, executing proper technique in pass protection is paramount to being Peterson’s complementary back. While it’s preferable that Peterson’s backup be a talented runner, it’s vital that the backup/3rd down back be a solid pass protector.

“The biggest thing for us, particularly with that second guy, is to be able to handle all the pressures and different looks that they can give us,” Bevell said. “Albert’s been here for a while, he’s been in (RBs) coach (Eric) Bieniemy’s meeting rooms. He’s well versed in it. That’s just half of it. You have to be physically strong enough to stand in there and take the pounding, step up and pick up a linebacker. Sometimes you’re going to be blocking a defensive end. [We have] to see if he can hold up in those situations. We know Albert’s running skills. We know Toby’s running skills. We need to see them in those other situations.”

In the end, the Vikings have the personnel necessary to get the RB2 job done. It’s a matter of the offensive staff deploying the talent effectively. Given the success of the Vikings offense, especially over the past 2 seasons, Vikings observers can be confident the RB2 job will be in capable hands.

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