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|Bears RB Adrian Peterson has only managed 2.6 yards per carry so far this preseason.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Because the Minnesota Vikings plan to rest their entire starting lineup Thursday at Dallas, we can say with some certainty that running back Adrian Peterson will finish the preseason with 51 yards on 20 carries.
Consider those numbers unexpected on two counts.
One, we didn't think the Vikings would hand it to their franchise player 20 times, considering the extra-cautious approach most teams are taking to the preseason this year -- and especially when you take into account he did not touch the ball in the opener. Second, we wouldn't have guessed Peterson would average 2.6 yards per carry (with a long of 11 yards) after making several adjustments during the offseason to avoid a repeat of his second-half dropoff in 2007.
Peterson and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy worked primarily on developing more patience near the line of scrimmage. As Peterson related last week to Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman, coaches encouraged him to "play up the gut more." In other words, to hit the prescribed hole rather than try to find open space elsewhere.
Has Peterson been too patient? The closest he came to breaking a big play was a 22-yard reception Aug. 16 at Baltimore. Perhaps the fairest thing to say is that like many players, Peterson has been working on a specific aspect of his game rather than taking a bottom-line approach during the preseason.
"The thing he can't do is he can't get frustrated," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's got to make sure that he continues to read out each play, because he's not going to make a big play by himself. It's going to be 10 guys that are going to help him do that. So as long as he stays with the schemes he'll end up being fine.
"I think he's done a nice job of trying to take the play where it's supposed to go. His ability will let him do all of the other stuff."
Hitting the hole too fast -- or giving up on it too quickly -- is one of the most common mistakes by a young running back. Peterson said last week that his film study revealed a surprising number of holes he missed last season.
"I studied the film and I was always amazed on a lot of plays, it was really me," Peterson said. "It wasn't the offensive line not getting a block or anything like that, or anything else they were doing really. It was really me kind of hurting myself."
The next time Peterson is on the field -- Sept. 8 at Lambeau Field -- will provide a fair measuring stick for determining exactly how much progress he has made.