The lack of success up front on offense had a huge impact on the Vikings failure to make the playoffs this year. It would be disingenuous to think OL coach Tony Sparano’s passing right before training camp didn’t have an impact on those guys, but the talent also wasn’t there. I would keep an eye on how the Vikings choose to improve that OL over the offseason before I spend early round capital in 2019 drafts on any Vikings player, especially Dalvin Cook.
The likely departure of Latavius Murray will potentially move Cook back into the 80%+ snap range, which will be worth an early round pick in and of itself, but his ceiling will be capped if the line doesn’t make some significant changes. Tom Compton took over for Nick Easton at left guard, and since neither seem like a solution, free agents like Ramon Foster or Roger Saffold would be intriguing. Mike Remmers move to guard didn’t quite work out, and it would be ideal if they move him back to tackle. Pat Elflein had a terrible year at center, but he was a rookie, and should improve in Year 2. Riley Reiff should be fine for them at left tackle.
Cook has had at least 3 receptions in every game he’s played this year except two. With him heavily involved in that aspect of the game, he was able to go over 90 yards from scrimmage in 6 of 11 games. That will be his saving grace if the line doesn’t improve enough for 2019. However, if the line does get a couple of upgrades along with a good OL coach, Cook and the entire offense should take a step forward and be more consistent. Despite the struggles this year, Cook was still able to average 5.69 yards per carry over his last 5 games, and most of that was due to his playmaking ability.
Cook will have to work on prevent hamstring injuries this offseason, and I’m glad he has extra time to get started on that. Preventing those soft tissue injuries will no doubt be a huge priority for him this offseason, and hopefully he’ll be able to handle 20+ touches per game from the get in 2019. The bigger question is whether the offensive line will improve enough to justify handing the ball to him 15-20 times per game.