With Adrian Peterson on the field, Vikings look to spread things out


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We've discussed at several points on this blog how different the Minnesota Vikings' offense looks now from the ones Adrian Peterson has inhabited for most of his career. The Vikings were in the shotgun or pistol about 65 percent of the time after Teddy Bridgewater took over as the starting QB in Week 4 last season -- the 13th-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- and their 565 shotgun snaps in that time were only 210 less than they had in 2012 and 2013 combined.

Peterson, of course, was in the backfield both of those seasons and has yet to play his first game with Bridgewater at quarterback. In those two seasons, Peterson ran just 40 times out of the shotgun, or one fewer than Christian Ponder. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, on the other hand, logged a combined 114 carries out of the shotgun last season.

There's little doubt the offense will require something of an adjustment for Peterson, who's made a career out of lining up 7 yards deep in the backfield and hitting the line of scrimmage with a healthy fury. But between the Vikings having enough of Peterson's staples in the playbook and giving the running back enough practice snaps to adjust, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Peterson will be fine.

"I think the things we're doing out of the shotgun, he's very comfortable with, and getting more comfortable," Turner said. "We're going to give him a good dose of the things he does best and has done best his entire career. We're going to try to spread the field a little bit and do some things to give him more space."

That's one of the things, to me, that will be most interesting to watch about Peterson in the Vikings' revamped offense. He led the league with 627 carries in 2012 and 2013; just 103 of them, according to ESPN Stats & Information, were with three or more receivers on the field. He only averaged 4.17 yards per carry in those sets (as opposed to a 5.36-yard average overall), but it's also easy to remember how often Peterson was running against a stacked box both of those years. The Vikings hope that by spreading the field, forcing defenses to either swap linebackers for defensive backs or move them out of the box, they'll create more openings for Peterson to gain more of his yards before contact and spare himself the pounding he ostensibly has taken most of his career.

We won't see it until opening night in San Francisco, but make no mistake: The Vikings are likely to put the 30-year-old running back in a different situation than he's been in his entire career. It will be fascinating to see how it works.