I will not hide from the fact that coming out of the preseason and training camp this year I was underwhelmed with what I saw of rookie RB Toby Gerhart. But after following the NFL for nearly my entire life and after shadowing the Vikings for the last 6 seasons, I’ve also learned that it makes no sense to make snap judgments on draft picks.
On Sunday at FedEx Field, Gerhart provided the latest illustration of why snap judgments often prove incorrect. With Adrian Peterson out of the game because of an ankle injury in the 2nd quarter, Gerhart stepped into the lineup and produced. After Peterson left the game, Gerhart logged 22 carries, 76 yards and his 1st career TD.
Most impressively, though, is the fact that Gerhart pounded the Redskins defense for 7 carries and 25 yards during the Vikings final drive of the game, a 13-play series that salted away 3 Washington timeouts and the final 6:13 of the game, allowing the Vikings to depart enemy territory with their 1st road win in over a year.
We shouldn’t go without mentioning the offensive line, either. With starting RG Anthony Herrera lost for the season, Ryan Cook filled the void admirably and in fact played quite well. I’ve said for a long time that the Vikings offensive line is better when John Sullivan is healthy and playing – that was certainly the case tonight. The group as a whole had a nice rhythm going, particularly in that game-clinching drive, and I know for a fact that Sullivan and TE Jim Kleinsasser thoroughly enjoyed grinding out that victory on the ground late in the game.
Back to Gerhart – this performance wasn’t the first or only stride of improvement I’ve seen from him. He’s become a more significant factor as the season has progressed, getting involved not only in the run game but also in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield and as a pass protector. It’s certainly not “mission accomplished” with Gerhart, but I’m just as certain that he’s on a good track to becoming a solid contributor for this Vikings offense for years to come.
As I sit on the team plane flying back to Minnesota after this win, I’m very encouraged. And it’s not because we won and I’m hoping in the back of my mind for a playoff berth of near-miraculous proportions. It’s because the Vikings showed up and played for interim head coach Leslie Frazier even though they had a 9-game road losing streak and a disappointing 3-7 record. It’s a nice win for this club and something for Frazier and his bunch to build upon going forward.
Tags: Toby Gerhart
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