Friday, February 21, 2014

The Peterson Pass-Catching Worry is Insignificant

Norv Turner says Adrian Peterson will need to catch more passes in his offense, but is this truly a huge problem? Daniel House says no and explains how Peterson and Bradley Randle could provide the LT and Darren Sproles effect in Turner's system. 

Yesterday in an interview at the scouting combine, new Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner stated Adrian Peterson would see between 50 and 60 passes in the new offensive scheme next season. Is this a problem for Peterson, who hasn't been the most reliable pass-catcher in his career in the NFL? Look closer into the context and research stats from Norv Turner and Adrian Peterson's most recent seasons and this theory becomes rather insignificant. Peterson caught 43 passes in 2009 and added 40 in 2012, which isn't much different from where Norv Turner wants him to be next season.  Nonetheless, Peterson was only called upon in the passing game just 29 times last season, however, this came over two less games. The true difference is going to be how the plays are designed and if they require more receiving ability from Peterson out of the backfield. Turner has always used his running backs in the passing game as a way to alleviate the pressure of throwing the ball deep down the field. 

To highlight this closer, I have compiled stats from LaDainian Tomlinson during his time in Norv Turner's offense to show the mold Adrian Peterson will need to fit. Tomlinson averaged just 44 receptions in his three seasons within Turner's offensive scheme in San Diego. LaDainian Tomlinson was a powerful runner like Peterson, but his pass-catching role was diminished because of Darren Sproles ability to catch passes out of the backfield, as well. Adrian can easily handle a reliance of between 50 and 60 passes because he will be utilized in a more effective way, rather than as a safety outlet like in years past. There will be specifically designed routes for Peterson, which will put him in a better position to be successful. 

However, the 50 or 60 passes that are anticipated from Peterson will not be the only passes required from running backs on this team next season. Norv Turner's past offense's have averaged near 72 passes to running backs each season. Many believe the Vikings will need to draft or sign a running back to accommodate this skill, but the team already has a player similar to Darren Sproles on the roster. One running back will have to emerge from the pack and Bradley Randle, a player with similar specifications to Darren Sproles, could be that player. I have talked about Randle frequently on this website and with a chance in a system such as Norv Turner's, Adrian Peterson and Bradley Randle could relive the personnel type that Darren Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson developed under Norv Turner in San Diego. Turner placed high reliance on pass blocking with Sproles and this definitely is an area Bradley Randle proved to be successful with in the preseason last year. 

“He was great at them,” Norv Turner said when discussing Sproles blocking abilities. “I got a laugh when people say Darren’s production was not what it’s been. Offensively, his production got better every year he (was) here. He’s been a big part of our third down.”

Randle has been studying Darren Sproles film, while working out in California and if he can model this skill-set, the Vikings could quietly have a solid "scat-back" to compliment the elite Adrian Peterson.

As for other candidates currently on the roster who fit the scheme of Norv Turner, it seems Joe Banyard could quietly be the third running back on this team next year. Banyard is a smaller back that caught two touchdowns passes out of the backfield in the preseason last year. The Vikings will need extremely athletic running backs to fit this scheme because rotation will be required frequently. Banyard currently has lost all of his practice squad eligibility, which means he will need to perform at a very high level to find a spot on the 53-man roster in August.

With the importance of third-down running backs in Turner's offense, you have to believe he will salivate over the 5'7" 193 pound frame Randle can bring to the table. Pair this skill-set with more passing to Adrian Peterson and Vikings fans could soon see the Tomlinson and Sproles effect in Minnesota.

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