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Just The Sports: Minnesota Vikings Rushing Game

Just The Sports

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Minnesota Vikings Rushing Game

The off-season acquisition of Steve Hutchinson by the Minnesota Vikings was not without its share of notoriety. The first bit of notoriety came from the contract making Hutchinson the highest paid guard in NFL history and the second bit had to do with the Vikings injecting a poison pill into the contract to make it financially unattractive for the Seahawks to match the contract and retain the services of the left guard. Seattle countered later in the off-season by signing Nate Burleson away from the Vikings and putting in a poison pill of their own, but who really wanted Nate Burleson anyway?

Of course, in handing an offensive lineman a seven-year, $49 million contract (at least on the surface), the Vikings no doubt expected it to pay immediate dividends for the team, most notably in the rushing game. Since that was the case, I can think of no better time to glance at Minnesota's rushing totals and see if Hutchinson has made a difference.

With Hutchinson playing guard, the first place I wanted to look was to compare the Vikings' yards per rush up the middle and off-guard to what they had last year. Doing so revealed that they have improved. Last year, the Vikings averaged 3.11 yards per middle-guard rush and this year the number has increased to 3.74 yards per rush. This is still below the 2005 league-average of 4.13 yards per rush, but it is an improvement.

Now, not all of that should be attributed to Steve Hutchinson's donning a Vikings uniform because the Vikings got center Matt Birk back from injury and rushes off the right guard are also factored into the equation so the increase is the result of a few factors and not just one.

In addition, so far this season, rushes up the middle and off-guard are where the Vikings have had the most success. I say that even though they have a higher yards per carry average running off the left tackle (5.91) because that average is inflated by one 33-yard run. Take that away and the Vikings are only averaging 3.20 yards per rush off left tackle. They are the worst when running around the left end. Overall the Vikings have only truly improved in middle-guard rushes over last year.


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