Vikings: If Peterson's out, who runs?

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
11:05
AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ordinarily, Monday night's news that Adrian Peterson will likely miss Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles wouldn't short circuit the Minnesota Vikings' offense. They have a capable No. 2 running back in Toby Gerhart, who ran for more than 500 yards in 2011 when Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve and helped the Vikings to the brink of victory with a 41-yard touchdown run on Sunday in Baltimore.

But Gerhart strained his hamstring on that touchdown run and could be challenged to make it back for Sunday's game. Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday that the Vikings would continue to be a run-first team, even if Peterson and Gerhart are both out or limited by injuries, but the situation could put the ball in the hands of some unfamiliar names.

Third-string running back Matt Asiata would be the first candidate to get more carries. Asiata beat out Joe Banyard for the final running back spot in training camp, partially because of his contributions on special teams, but he also played well in the Vikings' preseason finale against the Houston Texans. Asiata carried eight times for 32 yards and a touchdown that night, starting the game at running back and showing some power between the tackles. Banyard, who is still on the practice squad, could also be a candidate for some work against the Eagles; he posted 116 rushing and receiving yards in the final preseason game against the Texans.

The other name to keep an eye on might be fullback Jerome Felton, who's fond of reminding Peterson how much he carried the ball as a running back in college. He left Furman with the school's touchdown record, and has logged 42 NFL carries -- though he's never taken a handoff with the Vikings.

"Obviously [we have] Matt Asiata. Joe Banyard, he’s on the practice squad right now, so I don’t know if they’ll bring him up or what," Felton said. "Myself, I’ve had experience running the ball in this league, and if I’m called upon I’ll be ready.”

We also saw receiver Cordarrelle Patterson take a handoff 32 yards for a touchdown on Dec. 1 against the Chicago Bears, so he could see a few carries against the Eagles. It's interesting to hear Frazier say the Vikings won't change from their run-first philosophy, even if their personnel is as limited as it appears it could be this week. But the Vikings also have a decision to make at quarterback with Christian Ponder cleared to return from a concussion; Matt Cassel threw for 265 yards in the snow on Sunday, but Frazier wouldn't announce a starter on Monday.

They haven't been the kind of team to lean heavily on their passing game, and with all the uncertainty the Vikings have at quarterback, they might not start this week. The alternatives, though, appear to be hoping Gerhart heals quickly or turning to an unusual set of options.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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