Final year below John DeFilippo, the Vikings had the second-least explosive offense in football.
By means of 3 weeks of 2019, the Vikings at present have the most explosive offense in football.
Per Sharp Football Stats, the Vikings have recorded an explosive rush (gaining 10+ yards) on 17% of rush attempts, ranking third in the NFL, and have recorded an explosive pass (gaining 20+ yards) on 14% of pass attempts, ranking fourth in the NFL. Combined, the Vikings’ 16% explosive play price not only leads the NFL — it is a lot more than double their explosive play price below DeFilippo final year.
How did they go from second-worst to 1st?
Dalvin Cook Is Playing Like the Most effective Operating Back In Football
There are a lot of excellent operating backs in the NFL correct now, but via 3 weeks Dalvin Cook has been in a league of his personal. Cook at present leads the league in rushing yardage, yards per try and PFF grade, every by a wide margin:
Cook also at present leads the league in missed tackles forced in the run game (tied with Le’Veon Bell):
The Elusive Man pic.twitter.com/KVp8Mz0RlM
— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) September 25, 2019
That elusiveness pairs nicely with Stefanski and Kubiak’s concentrate on outdoors zone operating, considering the fact that the Vikings have been especially productive blocking at the second level. Bradbury and Elflein have been superb releasing upfield to seal off linebackers, and C.J. Ham and Irv Smith Jr. have been unsung heroes in how they have regularly enabled Cook to release into the open field, exactly where Cook can most very easily make defenders miss.
Alexander Mattison also deserves important credit for the Vikings’ explosive rush attack, as Mattison himself ranks 1st in the NFL in explosive rush price amongst backs with at least 20 carries. His ten-yard touchdown final week is a good showcase for how the scheme, second-level blocking and RB talent have reinvigorated the Vikings’ rushing attack:
This is primarily a standard outdoors zone run (even though the wide alignment of #97 (Josh Mauro) forces it into a lot more of a mid-zone run). Elflein gets a excellent attain block to seal the nose tackle and Bradbury is fast to take out the linebacker, and the Raiders abandon that backside B-gap to blitz, leaving an ocean of space for Mattison to run via. From there, Mattison just has the deep security to beat, which he does in spectacular style with a target-line leap for the score.
That is how the Vikings turned their rushing attack about. The concentrate on outdoors zone has provided the group an identity, a thing they practiced all offseason to close to-perfection. That new identity capitalizes on the offensive line’s athleticism and dovetails with how explosive Dalvin Cook (and Alexander Mattison) can be when they get in the open field.
The Threat of Dalvin Cook Is Opening Up the Passing Game
Correct now Dalvin Cook is having all the interest — each from fans and analysts and from opposing defenses. And that is specifically what Kevin Stefanski desires, as the concentrate on Dalvin Cook sets up the Vikings’ explosive passing attack.
Just take a appear at the Vikings’ 1st touchdown from final Sunday:
The Vikings come out with two tight ends on the field, and that heavier personnel plus the threat of Dalvin Cook baits the Raiders into a single-higher security appear. You can see just how worried the Raiders had been about Cook from how challenging the linebackers bite on the play action (so substantially so that one particular linebacker falls more than).
But the Vikings are not handing the ball off as an alternative, they run a “Yankee” notion, with Thielen operating the post route and Diggs operating the deep dig route. For the reason that the Raiders had been baited into a single-higher security appear, the deep security is in a bind: he’s just one particular guy, but has two deep routes to cover. When he comes across to cover Diggs, Cousins has an uncomplicated study, and he throws a dime to Thielen in stride for the score.
That touchdown is created doable by the threat of Dalvin Cook — by how challenging the underneath defenders bite on the play action, and by how the deep security gets left without having support up top rated simply because the defense was keying in on Cook.
And that play is a microcosm of how Dalvin Cook sets up the Vikings’ passing attack. In truth, per Sports Information Options, the Vikings’ offense has faced single-higher coverage on 75% of plays, ranking second-most in the league.
Portion of that stems from Stefanski’s frequent usage of heavier personnel — the Vikings have brought an additional tight finish or fullback onto the field on 77% of plays, most in the league by far (for comparison, the 49ers are in a distant second at 61%, and the NFL typical is 34%). That heavier personnel gets teams to count on runs and bring additional defenders into the box, freeing up space for routes downfield.
But component of that is also defenses committing additional sources to cease Dalvin Cook. Per Subsequent Gen Stats, Dalvin Cook has faced eight or a lot more defenders in the box the ninth-most of any back with at least ten rush attempts, nicely above league typical.
Stefanski loves to take benefit of these extra box defenders and single-higher appears to develop explosive plays downfield:
Right here the Vikings flood the correct side of the field, so that when the single-higher security and deep-third cornerback carry Thielen deep, Diggs is left open in the zone underneath.
But notice how, prior to the snap, Irv Smith Jr. motions from out wide into the box. Not only does that confirm the cover-three pre-snap study, it also brings an additional linebacker into the box and out of the play, and in addition aids sell the play action. That, plus the run-action threat from Cook, gets Diggs open deep, and Kirk locations a fantastic throw that Diggs reels in for 31 yards (plus an additional 15 on penalty).
Speaking of Irv Smith Jr., final week he recorded 3 receptions of 20 or a lot more yards. Every of these receptions was set up by the threat of Dalvin Cook forcing a loaded box and single-higher coverage, which Smith Jr. exploited in the seams and to the sidelines. This subsequent play builds off a standard split-zone run, but rather than cutting across the formation to block the defensive finish, Smith Jr. as an alternative releases complete-speed into the flat. And due to Stefanski’s condensed formation and the outdoors zone action going the other way, he’s left definitely wide open:
Smith Jr. showcases his speed and vision right here to choose up more than 25 yards right after the catch and 5 yards right after speak to (brought back partially by Chad Beebe’s illegal downfield block), and the play is all set up by the threat of Dalvin Cook’s outdoors zone sucking every single defender the incorrect way on the play action.
It is no secret that the foundation of the Vikings’ explosive run results is Dalvin Cook rushing like a future Offensive Player of the Year award-winner in the new outdoors zone scheme (which I wrote about earlier this season).
But it has gone fairly unnoticed that the threat Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ rushing attack poses — forcing single-higher coverage, loaded boxes, and additional linebackers to set up play action and attack downfield — has set up Stefanski to capitalize with an equally explosive passing attack. And it is the fusion of an explosive rushing attack with an explosive passing attack that tends to make this new offense especially potent.