Can Adrian Peterson Carry The Vikings?

By Brian Harrington

All Pro Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is off to the best start by a rookie running back in a decade but with the good come the bad and can the 23 year old Oklahoma alum handle the rigorous workload for 5 full seasons?

Lets look at this league’s all time rusher Emmitt Smith who rushed for 18,355 career yards in 15 seasons and playing in 226 games. Smith played in a very high octane offense with several Pro Bowl players on that team while the Vikings have not even a handful of Pro Bowlers on there team that we are going to list as of the following, defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams, safety Darren Sharper, with only center Matt Birk and guard Steve Hutchinson and left tackle Bryant McKinnie earning Pro Bowl owners on the offensive side with Peterson. The Cowboys however had a very impressive list of players to compliment Emmitt with quarterback Troy Aikman, fullback Daryl Johnston,wide receiver Michael Irvin,  offensive tackle Erik Williams, center Mark Stepnoski, guard Larry Allen tight end Jay Novacek, guard Nate Newton and offensive lineman Mark Tuinei while on the defensive side they had safeties Thomas Everett, and Darren Woodson defensive tackle Russell Maryland, defensive end Charles Haley linebacker Ken Norton and Prime Time Deion Sanders at cornerback to just name a few.

I do understand that this list is not far comparing a two year season to a fourteen year season but looking at Emmitt’s first two seasons he had himself just like Peterson go to Hawaii his rookie year, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Jay Novacek all going to the Pro Bowl.  While the Vikings do have a very good chance of getting Hutchinson, McKinnie and Birk to the Pro Bowl along with Peterson, they still have no wide receiver, tight end or quarterback to compliment the electrifying Peterson.

The point I think has been driven down that Smith had a lot more of a supporting cast than Peterson has now but he does have the protection with the line he just needs less pressure on him or he will end up carrying the ball 700 times a season due to a not so good quarterback not having any other not so good options other than Peterson’s backup Chester Taylor who is a very good reserve back but needs to reach the end zone more with only 18 touchdowns in close to seven seasons while Peterson has 19 touchdowns in just two seasons as a starter.

The Vikings are getting some progression out of Bernard Berrian with 4 touchdowns
and Visanthe Shiancoe with four but the pressure solely lies on Adrian Peterson to win every game and eventually that will cause the second year back to be overworked which could result in a serious injury and then a sudden retirement. Lets look at possibly the greatest running back of all time Jim Brown, he retired age the age of 29 due to not wanting to be forced out of the game and wanting to walk out on “his terms”. Lets look at Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson as a perfect example. While being interviewed by ESPN in May of this year Tomlinson responded to the thought of breaking Emmitt Smith’s rushing record by saying “I really would like to walk away from the game on top. I don’t want to be a player that’s declining and have to be kicked out of the league and not getting picked up by a team.”.

Let’s look at the first two seasons by Peterson and Smith with there rushing carries. In his first two seasons Smith had 606 carries and Peterson so far has 444 carries in less than two seasons. While Smith was banged up his first two seasons he did not miss any time while Peterson did miss a few games with a knee injury and is still banged up this season but is still carrying this team. When it comes comparing the two backs as far as reliability is concerned, the first season that Smith missed games was in 1993 when he missed two games and the Cowboys still won the Superbowl however when Peterson went down last season they still won both games including one against the defending Superbowl Champions with there stout defense with Chester Taylor rushing for 77 yards and the Vikings destroying the champs 41-17.

The one thing for sure would be that running backs take a toll each and every game and I am afraid of the mere fact that the more Peterson gets the ball the less we will see him in years to come. I am not comparing him to Emmitt Smith or Jim Brown but one thing is for sure when Jim Brown was on our radio show Pro Football Central Radio Show, the very first time he watched Peterson run the ball he “stood up off his seat” and when you make possibly the greatest of all time stand up you must be good.