Ty Chandler

Latest On Vikings’ RB Situation

With former star running back Dalvin Cook officially off the team, it’s now apparently the Alexander Mattison-era in Minnesota, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN. Mattison’s opportunities in his first four seasons have been extremely limited due to Cook’s hold on the position, but with Cook a free agent, Mattison now gets the opportunity to perform as a three-down back.

In 2022, Cook and Mattison split nearly all the offensive snaps at running back at about a 75-25 split. Other running backs only saw the field on special teams or in garbage time. Mattison hasn’t been Cook’s RB2 because he is a perfect complement to Cook, Mattison has been the first back off the bench because he has been the team’s second best running back, period. Mattison could likely have earned starts on other teams around the league, if given the opportunity. Instead, he’s mentored behind Cook and taken advantage of the few playing opportunities he’s been given.

In eight games where Mattison has either started or seen significant carries (12 or over), Mattison has 589 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That’s with sporadic opportunities. With consistent starts and usage, Mattison could definitely find a rhythm that makes him a strong three-down back. With Mattison firmly planted in the lead-back role and no other backs getting serious time in 2022, who’s the favorite off the bench in Minnesota?

The one big thing that Mattison lacks in comparison to Cook is explosive speed. The Vikings have heaps of that in both Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. Chandler impressed many with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash before getting drafted in the fifth round last year out of North Carolina. He only appeared in three games last season, though, spending most of his rookie year on injured reserve.

Nwangwu is already a recognizable name, which is impressive without having made an offensive impact in two seasons. He’s recognizable because Nwangwu has forced his way onto the field as a kick returner, earning second-team All-Pro honors last year. He’s yet to score an offensive touchdown but has three return touchdowns over his first two years in the league.

Elite speed makes both Chandler and Nwangwu ideal complements to Mattison. Chandler likely gets the edge here, though, due to his ability in the passing game. In five seasons of college football, Chandler caught 73 balls for 681 yards and four touchdowns. In opportunities during last year’s preseason, Chandler showed surprising effectiveness running inside, as well. He appears to be the most well-rounded backup to complement Mattison, but after missing so much time last year, he’ll have to prove he can stay on the field and effectively serve as RB2.

Nwangwu could certainly play in the role if needed. He provides the top-end speed that Mattison lacks and showed a bit of promise averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 13 carries as a rookie. What could keep him out of the running is his impact on special teams. Nwangwu’s become such a key special teamer for the Vikings, that they may not want to risk throwing him out on offense consistently.

The only other back on the roster is rookie seventh-round pick DeWayne McBride out of UAB. Against Conference-USA competition, McBride was dominant over his two years as a starter. In those two years, McBride combined for 3,523 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. Somehow both stout and shifty, McBride is hard to bring down, but he doesn’t have the speed to complement Mattison as RB2. The jump to NFL competition could also really challenge McBride as a rookie. He may be best served to bide his time until Mattison’s rookie contract runs out and try to climb the depth chart then.

So, for now, Mattison appears to be the heir apparent to take over for Cook as the team’s lead-back. Minnesota seems ready to trust him in a three-down role for the first time in his career. Behind Mattison, Chandler and Nwangwu will duke it out for the RB2 role. Even though Chandler is the favorite to win the job, Nwangwu’s roster spot is safe due to his elite return abilities. McBride provides the only depth past those three and should, at the very least, end up on the practice squad, if not on the active roster in 2023.

Vikings Designate TE Irv Smith Jr. For Return, Activate RB Ty Chandler

The Vikings pulled off one of the more notable trades during this year’s deadline to help offset the loss of Irv Smith Jr. The fourth-year tight end could be back in the fold, soon however.

Smith was designated for return from IR on Wednesday, per a team announcement. That opened up the 24-year-old’s three-week window to be activated and allowed him to practice for the first time since October. Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 8, leading to his extended absence.

That represented the latest in a long line of availability concerns for the former second-rounder, who missed the entire 2021 campaign due to a meniscus tear. It also dealt another blow to his free agent value, something of particular concern as he is a pending free agent. Most importantly, though, it drove Minnesota to swing a midseason deal with Detroit for two-time Pro Bowler T.J. Hockenson to replace him.

Hockenson has been as advertised since his arrival in Minnesota. The former top-ten pick has racked up 52 catches, 444 yards and three touchdowns in eight games with his new NFC North employer. Given that level of production, not to mention to presence of wideouts Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn as competition for targets, it will be interesting to see how much of a role Smith is able to carve out down the stretch.

The Vikings will also have more depth in the backfield to close out the regular season. Minnesota activated rookie running back Ty Chandler; they needed to do so today to avoid having him revert to season-ending IR. The fifth-rounder has played in two games this season, both of which came in October. He has exclusively seen time on special teams so far, but could provide insurance behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison if necessary.

The Vikings have five IR activations remaining on the year, though Smith will account for one of those in the near future. His return will give a boost to what is already the league’s fifth-ranked passing offense as Minnesota looks to turn their relatively healthy roster into a deep playoff run.

Vikings Activate CB Cameron Dantzler, Place DL Jonathan Bullard On IR

DECEMBER 10: To no surprise, Dantzler has indeed been activated, per a team announcement. That comes as welcomed news for the Vikings, given the injuries suffered at the position by rookies Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth during his absence. Dantzler should immediately return to a starting role.

In a corresponding move, Minnesota has placed Jonathan Bullard on IR. The veteran d-lineman suffered a biceps injury last Sunday against the Jets, a game which marked the first in five weeks which he did not start. There was initial optimism that his injury would not be serious, but further testing has led to what will be at least a four-week absence.

DECEMBER 7: Kevin O’Connell expressed hope Cameron Dantzler would be ready to return from IR when first eligible. The Vikings took a step toward that happening Wednesday, designating the starting cornerback for return.

Minnesota designated both Dantzler and running back Ty Chandler for return. Each player has 21 days to be activated or miss the rest of the season. While IR math might come into play regarding Chandler, the Vikings are expecting Dantzler to be activated immediately.

A 2020 third-round pick, Dantzler has been the team’s regular boundary starter opposite Patrick Peterson this season. The Mike Zimmer-era draftee has started all eight games he has played during his third NFL slate. A part-time starter last year, Dantzler was a reliable cog for DC Ed Donatell before going down with a high ankle sprain.

Pro Football Focus rates Dantzler just outside the top 40 at corner this season. The Mississippi State alum held off second-round rookie Andrew Booth for the starting role opposite Peterson; Booth did not see much time before undergoing knee surgery last week. The Clemson product being out for the season as a result of the operation places more importance on Dantzler’s status, but the Vikings appear close to redeploying their Peterson-Dantzler duo. Dantzler has 25 starts on his resume.

Minnesota’s Ben Ellefson activation last week leaves five such moves remaining. Dantzler will undoubtedly cut into this total, though it would not surprise to see the Vikings slow-play it with Chandler to determine how their injury situation unfolds. The Vikes placed the rookie fifth-rounder on IR back in October due to a broken thumb. Playing behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, Chandler saw action in only two games before hitting IR and has not played an offensive snap as a pro yet.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/11/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/22

Thursday has featured several rookie deals finalized. Here are the mid- and late-round draftees to sign their four-year contracts today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • WR Montrell Washington (fifth round, Samford)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Snoop Conner (fifth round, Ole Miss)
  • CB Gregory Junior (sixth round, Ouachita Baptist)
  • CB Montaric Brown (seventh round, Arkansas)

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans