We didn't discuss this in our look at what Adrian Peterson has to do to take another run at Eric Dickerson's rushing record, but we've talked before about how much the Vikings could miss fullback Jerome Felton in the first three weeks of the season. I thought it was worth bringing up again today, in light of what coach Leslie Frazier said Monday about how the Vikings will get by while Felton is suspended for the first three games of the season.
Peterson averaged 6.9 yards per carry with Felton on the field and 4.6 yards per carry with him off the field last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He ran from a two-back set on 235 of his 348 carries, and Felton was the other man in the backfield for 201 of those carries. Rhett Ellison was effective as a run-blocker last year; Peterson averaged 5.95 yards per carry on 117 rushes with him on the field, though Ellison split his time between lining up as a tight end and a fullback. The Vikings could also use rookie Zach Line as a lead blocker.
Another interesting idea that Frazier mentioned on Monday was using tight end John Carlson in the backfield; the Vikings had Carlson lined up as an H-back at different times in training camp, though that seemed to be as much about finding ways to get him the ball as it did about employing him as a run-blocker. He was a blocker for just 120 snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and though Carlson was more effective in the role toward the end of the year (Peterson averaged 6.06 yards per carry with Carlson on the field), it remains to be seen how he'd handle the role on a regular basis. It's an interesting wrinkle, though, for a player who took a pay cut before this season after signing a five-year deal with the Vikings in 2012, and Carlson could find a way to rejuvenate himself in the role.
"We’ll still be in some two-back situations on Sunday, and we think those guys are capable of getting the job done," Frazier said.
How easily they're able to plug in replacements for Felton could determine, in part, how productive they'll be on Sunday in Detroit. Frazier seems confident in his options, and based on what they've shown in a limited capacity, the coach has every right to be. What those players can do for Peterson in a bigger role, though, will definitely be worth watching this weekend.