Adrian Peterson Rushing Title – Why He Will Win Again

Adrian Peterson Rushing Title – Why He Will Win Again

Vikings Barroom Assistant Editor Drew Mahowald explains why an Adrian Peterson rushing title will happen once again in 2016.

In some ways, statistically, Adrian Peterson is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. He tallied 4.5 yards per carry in 2015, a mark that he has only fell short of once in his entire career.

And yet, Peterson came away with his third career rushing title.

Both his 327 carries and 1,485 rushing yards topped the league as he became the first 30-year-old running back since Curtis Martin in 2004 to claim the title.

[graphiq id=”gHdPyAU2Gax” title=”Adrian Peterson Rushing Attempts and Average in 2015″ width=”640″ height=”470″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/gHdPyAU2Gax” link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/16215/Adrian-Peterson” link_text=”Adrian Peterson Rushing Attempts and Average in 2015 | PointAfter” ]

It’s not that Peterson showed significant signs of aging or losing ability. He just found himself operating behind an incredibly lackluster offensive line and as a part of an extremely predictable offensive system.

So, what should fans expect for an encore in 2016?

An improved offensive line will surely assist Peterson in his tenth season. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman acquired former San Francisco 49ers mauler Alex Boone to replace Brandon Fusco, who seemed to block air more than actual human beings last year, at left guard. Spielman also added Cincinnati Bengals 2009 first-round pick Andre Smith to presumably replace the often-overwhelmed T.J. Clemmings at right tackle.

Additionally, veterans John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt return from scary injuries sustained in 2015. While there is still plenty of doubt regarding their health, at the very least they can provide added depth for a position group that always needs it.

Given Spielman’s additions to the offensive line in conjunction with those returning from injury, there are simply two possible outcomes for Minnesota’s offense as a whole this season, and both give Peterson a strong chance to defend his rushing title (barring any serious injuries, of course).

Either Turner, with the influence of new offensive line coach Tony Sparano and new ‘tight ends’ coach Pat Shurmur, will operate a more balanced offense, or he won’t.

The less than ideal scenario is that Turner’s offensive system, which relied very heavily on the run a season ago, undergoes little to no modifications to its balance. If this is the case, the future Hall of Fame tailback will likely be asked to withstand another 300-carry season.

Peterson managed 4.5 yards per carry in 2015 behind a porous offensive line that forced him to relentlessly dodge tacklers behind the line of scrimmage. With what should be, at least, an average offensive line, it’s absolutely reasonable to expect the former Oklahoma Sooner to eclipse 4.5 again in 2016.

[graphiq id=”51iuALWzXY9″ title=”Adrian Peterson 2015 Season Rushing Stats” width=”800″ height=”400″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/51iuALWzXY9″ link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/16215/Adrian-Peterson” link_text=”Adrian Peterson 2015 Season Rushing Stats | PointAfter” ]

With those minimal statistical projections of 4.5 yards per carry on 300 carries, Peterson will rack up at least 1,350 rushing yards in 2016, which very well could be good enough to lead the league. After all, only Peterson and Doug Martin topped that number last season, and the next-best was barely over 1,100.

The second and more ideal possibility for the Purple and Gold offense in 2016 is that Turner finds a better balance in his offense. This means running the ball less than 70 percent of the time on first down and not being the most predictable unit in the NFL to defend, both of which could describe Minnesota last season.

Sure, a more balanced offense will undoubtedly take carries away from Peterson. However, a more balanced offense is a less predictable offense, which will only help Peterson and his success rate when he carries the rock. In a perfect world, Turner’s Air Coryell offense is featured more often, with fewer five- and seven-step drops while increasing the use of quick-hitting plays that are right in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s wheelhouse.

Also in the hypothetical balanced Vikings offense, Peterson will see a sizable decrease in carries from his 327 a season ago. Despite the decrease in carries, Peterson will still have every opportunity to eat up large chunks of yardage due to the fact that he’ll have a legitimate passing threat on his offense, an asset he has really only had in one of his nine seasons as a pro.

For example, a reasonable decrease in carries for Peterson over a 16-game season is 50 — which is just over three per game — bringing his total carry count down to 277, or 17.3 per game. At 277 carries, Peterson would need to muster a yards per carry average of just under 4.9 to achieve 1,350 rushing yards for the season, while a 5.0 mark would net 1,385 yards.

And yes, a fully healthy and motivated Adrian Peterson featured as an important asset of a well-balanced offense will absolutely exceed that mark. The three-time rushing champ’s mouth waters at the idea of carrying the ball against a regular seven-man front instead of loaded box that includes eight, nine or even ten players focused solely on stopping No. 28.

Regardless of how Minnesota’s offense is operated in 2016, Peterson and his superhuman rushing abilities will continue to be a key feature that gives opposing defenses nightmares. Whether Turner wants to make it easier for Peterson is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure — barring serious injury, ‘All Day’ will have a significant chance to claim a fourth career rushing title by season’s end.

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