During Monday night’s contest against the Chicago Bears, Kevin O’Connell again gave the start to Alexander Mattison at the running back position. The first carry of the game went to Ty Chandler, though. From there, he rode the pine. It’s time to unlock the training wheels on Ty Chandler.
Unlock the Training Wheels on Ty Chandler
Kevin O’Connell has not bought into a running game for most of his short career as a head coach. He was buoyed in 2022 by the abilities of an aging Dalvin Cook, but the former star saw usage rates that dipped and effectiveness that landed him unemployed and looking for work this offseason.
While the decision to make Alexander Mattison the lead running back this offseason can be scrutinized, an ability to run the ball at all hasn’t been something of a strength for the O’Connell offense. As Mattison has struggled, that has never become more apparent. With Ty Chandler next in line and having shown some effectiveness, it’s jarring how necessary a rhythm must be found.
After two weeks of double-digit carries, Chandler had his best professional game against the Denver Broncos. Ripping off a 31-yard gain, the Vikings running back posted 73 yards on just 10 carries. He also hauled in all four of his targets for another 37 yards to top 100 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career. It looked to be a launching point for a dynamic Minnesota needs on offense, but then Chicago happened.
Against the Bears, on Monday Night Football, in a nationally televised game, Chandler got the first carry and then just three more. His four total carries went for only eight yards, and six came on a single tote. Chandler was also targeted just twice in the passing game, hauling in one of them for three yards. Playing just 18 offensive snaps, representing 33% for Minnesota, Chandler never had an opportunity to get things going.
There is no reason to think that the Vikings should operate with a bell cow back at this stage of their season, but it is clear O’Connell needs to make changes during the bye. A greater snap share on offense has to be geared towards Chandler, and making Mattison the third down back or work most heavily in pass protection seems to make sense. Allowing the youngster an opportunity to build on momentum should be key, and the Vikings can’t continue to have such a one-dimensional offense.
Las Vegas is sixth worst in the NFL against the run, and while they aren’t dead last as the Denver Broncos are, there is no reason running room can’t be found against the Raiders. If O’Connell is preparing correctly, he will incorporate that into the offense despite the return of Justin Jefferson. The Vikings have too much pass-catching talent to work simply as a balanced offense, but they need more production from the running game if helping whoever is under center is a concern.
Ty Chandler has looked deserving of a greater role for some time now, and rather than continuing to dabble in that plan, it’s time to take the training wheels off and let him have room to operate.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.