Dalvin Cook’s Explosive Runs & Danielle Hunter as Vikings ‘X-Factor’

Dalvin Cook’s Explosive Runs & Danielle Hunter as Vikings ‘X-Factor’

It goes without saying that Dalvin Cook and Danielle Hunter are among the key players on Minnesota’s roster.

Both were recently highlighted, Cook by NFL.com and Hunter by Bleacher Report.

NFL.com’s Nick Shook used Next Gen Stats to rank the league’s 10 most explosive runners, and he slated Cook at No. 3 on the list.

In 2021, Cook recorded 36 runs of 10-plus yards, which accounted for 14.5 percent of his carries. He had 54 runs that reached 15-plus miles per hour, which was the second-most in the NFL among running backs. Shock wrote:

When Cook receives the handoff, he’s proceeding forward with a full head of steam.

Cook gained 1.6 yards before contact per carry in 2021, tied for fourth among RBs, and it paid off nicely for the Vikings. He ranked first with 12 15-plus mph rushes inside the tackles and tied for second with 14 10-plus-yard rushes inside the tackles.

Cook’s 36 10-plus-yard runs are nothing to scoff at, and neither is a 15-plus mph percentage above 21. The only issue holding Cook back on this list is he ranked 12thin rushing yards over expected with just 81, far behind the likes of even Seattle’s Rashaad Penny, who didn’t qualify for this list because he posted fewer than 20 10-plus-yard runs. Cook’s initial impact is easy to see, as is the gross production – it’s just the little extra (rush yards over expected) that’s missing here.

Only one running back was ranked above Cook: Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor, who tallied 50 runs of 10-plus yards last season.

And at the top of the list? Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, whom the Vikings are slated to meet in Week 2 on Monday Night Football. Hurts, rushed 139 times for 784 yards in 2021 and led the NFL in 15-plus mile-per-hour runs with 78.

Philadelphia found itself in a bit of an offensive rut in 2021 before reimagining itself as a run-first, dual-threat attack with Hurts leading the way. From there, the Eagles, well, took flight, with Hurts using his abilities to keep defenses guessing. The shift in philosophy produced the league’s top rushing offense.

Hurts led the league in designed QB runs (72), rushing yards gained on such runs (377) and yards per carry on such runs (5.2, min. 30 such runs). In addition, his 146 rush yards gained over expected, eight touchdowns scored and 11 first downs gained over expected on such runs led the league. So did Hurts’ +20 rushing expected points added on designed QB runs.

Philadelphia’s offensive identity has set an expectation for which every defense must prepare. It’s not just about containing Hurts’ arm; They’ll have to plan to stop his running, too (and it’s not just Hurts – his teammate, Miles Sanders, nearly made this list, as well).