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Shotgun has potential and a learning curve for Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Adrian Peterson seemed to have a more difficult time with carries taken out of the shotgun on Monday. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We spent some time last night looking at Adrian Peterson's shifting role in the Minnesota Vikings' offense, which will require the running back to take fewer handoffs from a quarterback under center. After reviewing film of Peterson's carries on Tuesday, I thought it was worth diving back into the issue to make a couple more points.

Of Peterson's 10 carries on Monday night, six came with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Four were with Bridgewater in the shotgun, about 4-5 yards behind the center with Peterson standing next to him. Peterson gained just 7 yards on those four handoffs, as opposed to 24 yards on six carries in an I-formation. And while it was only four handoffs, it was also 40 percent of the workload for Peterson on his first night back, after he'd taken just 60 carries in the shotgun in the last two years.

"You really just need to be more patient, allow the pulling guard to get on his block and hit it up in there," he said Monday night. "Those are the ones I felt like I was kind of hesitant on. I really wanted to hit like I was coming out of the I-formation."

Said coach Mike Zimmer on Tuesday: "I don't think he looked tentative. I think he was aggressive, trying to get to the hole and maybe trying to get to it a little bit too fast at times."

As we discussed last night, a big part of Peterson's game has been starting 7 yards deep in the backfield, taking a handoff and hitting the line at full speed. He's going to be asked to change that approach with Bridgewater, who was under center only about 34 percent of the time last year, and there's inevitably going to be an adjustment period for Peterson. But even in the limited success the Vikings had with Peterson in the shotgun Monday night, there were hints of why they want to play that way.

First, if the Vikings are going to put Bridgewater back from center, they have to be able to run the ball with Peterson in the shotgun. Otherwise, Bridgewater lining up under center could often be a tell for opposing defenses that a run is coming. And the Vikings also had a couple wrinkles out of the shotgun that could be effective in their offense once they get developed.

On a couple occasions, Bridgewater appeared to be running packaged plays, where he could hand off to Peterson on a zone read play or keep the ball and throw it if he saw the defense bite on the run action. On the Vikings' first offensive play, Bridgewater faked a handoff to Peterson, and eight 49ers defenders flowed to the left side of the field with Peterson. Bridgewater kept the ball, and appeared to have two windows where he could have hit Charles Johnson for a big gain. He held the ball on a bootleg to his right, rolled toward the sideline and wound up missing Jarius Wright, but had Bridgewater made the throw, the Vikings could have started the game by capitalizing on Peterson's presence.

Bridgewater's college offense operated primarily out of the pistol or shotgun, and it makes sense for the Vikings to put their full set of weapons -- Peterson included -- at Bridgewater's disposal. He's good at reading defenses, and when he trusts what he's seeing, the Vikings can be tough to stop. But until that happens, and Peterson gets completely comfortable with a more varied set of responsibilities, there could be some rough spots for the Vikings in the short term.