Hey rookie, meet Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams has no doubt heard of him - a.k.a. the reigning MVP. Peterson, coming off a torn ACL at the end of the 2011 season, savaged the league for 2,097 rushing yards last season, putting the Vikings on his back and carrying them to the playoffs.
He's averaging 93 yards a game now, and 4.1 yards a carry. Not exactly the same Herculean effort he put up last year, but one key issue has been the absence of NFC Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton. He served a three-game suspension, and will play for the Vikings for the first time this season in Week 4.
While it's nearly cliche for a running back to reward his blocking fullback with praise and accolades, Felton earned it last season. He has great vision and great balance, and clearly, Peterson not only trusts him, but he anticipates his movement. For a strongside defender like Williams, he has to not only key on the fullback but be able to shed that block and make the play on lead runs.
It was a staple of the Vikings' offense last season, and stands to reason it will be similar in Week 4.
Expect the Vikings to get Peterson the ball 22 times or more in this game. Veteran Matt Cassel isn't the kind of quarterback who's leading teams to victory by throwing 30 or more times in a game. The Steelers' run defense hasn't had the kind of test Peterson and Felton will bring, particularly since teams have thrown 75 times in the last two games - both losses.
Williams' ability to take on Felton near the line scrimmage, forcing Peterson to make a move toward the defensive line horizontally instead of downhill will be critical in the Steelers' ability to control this game.
Peterson loves the jump-cut, a quick hop-step to the side that requires defensive tacklers to remain disciplined in their approach. He has as much strength and explosion as any skill position player in the NFL, and it doesn't take much for him to cut upfield off that jump-step, so Williams needs to stay in front of Peterson and get off Felton as quickly as possible.
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