The Minnesota Vikings have announced that they have activated running back Adrian Peterson off of injured reserve, which matches his own announcement earlier that he would be active and ready for the upcoming game this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
Adrian Peterson played in the first two games of the season before tearing his meniscus and requiring surgery, which led to the Vikings putting him on injured reserve. This year’s NFL rules do not require that a specific player be tagged with the “return from injured reserve” designation at the time of the transaction and any player who is on IR long enough can be designated after the fact for return, a move the Vikings made earlier this week.
In order to make room for the move, they waived defensive tackle Toby Johnson, who was promoted from the practice squad earlier in the week when defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd went to IR.
There isn’t much information on how much he’ll play or how many carries he can expect to get, but it likely won’t be too many.
Adrian Peterson enters a team with a historically poor running game, and the running backs have averaged 2.84 yards per carry this season while the Vikings as a whole are averaging 2.95 yards per carry—both marks rank last in the NFL, and the worst mark since the New England Patriots finished 1994 with 2.79 yards per carry.
It’s unclear how much Peterson can help; the offensive line is run blocking extremely poorly, and Peterson hasn’t run well behind a better version of this line, going back to the end of the 2015 season or the beginning of the 2016 season.
In the final five games of the 2016 regular season, Peterson was averaging 2.0 yards after contact—the same as Jerick McKinnon is this year, and below Matt Asiata’s 2.1. This year, at the beginning of 2016, he was doing worse—only getting 1.5 yards after contact per carry.
Not only that, he and Asiata have had similar goal line success rates, generating a successful run since the beginning of 2015 at a rate of 36 percent. Asiata’s rate is 33 percent.
It may or may not be Adrian Peterson’s fault—he is, after all, a lock for the Hall of Fame—but neither conclusion is comforting. If he truly is declining, he simply won’t add much to the running game. If he isn’t declining and the drop in numbers is because of how poor the offensive line has blocked… that hasn’t changed, either.
This is a good time for him to make his case, however. The Indianapolis Colts have one of the worst front sevens in the league, and are the weakest team the Vikings have played against the run, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.