Every spring and summer, running back Adrian Peterson gets asked if he expects to have a bigger role in the passing game. This year is no exception, but it is fair to wonder if he will be busier than usual in that area.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is known, amongst many other things, for distributing passes to his running backs. In recent years, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles and the immortal Chris Ogbonnaya all caught at least 45 balls in a season. Last year, with Peterson suspended, Matt Asiata caught 44 passes and Jerick McKinnon chipped in with 27 catches.
With Peterson back, many of those catches will be funneled to him.
Peterson has been prolifically productive as a runner but far from perfect as a pass-catcher. His hands have been shaky at times, and when it comes to pass protection, he hasn’t been as reliable as one would expect.
That being said, Peterson has usually looked pretty natural while snagging passes in the early stages of training camp. So he was asked yesterday if he put in extra work with the JUGS machine during the offseason.
“Not really,” said Peterson, who had two catches for 18 yards in one 2014 game. “I always work on my hands during the offseason. No more, no less.”
Then the 30-year-old running back brought up an interesting point when it comes to his role in the passing game in past years.
“Think about when Brett Favre was here [in 2009 and 2010], when I actually had a quarterback that checked the ball down to the running backs,” Peterson said. “I did pretty decent.”
He did. In 2009, Favre’s first season here, Peterson established career highs with 43 catches and 436 receiving yards. His 10.1 yards-per-reception average was also the most in his career. He followed that up with 36 catches for 341 yards the following season.
While Teddy Bridgewater is not on the level as Favre, his childhood hero, he has shown a willingness so far to check it down after a few defensive backs chase, say, Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace deep down the field.
So opportunities will be there, even if Asiata or McKinnon end up getting more third-down work. If Peterson catches two or three passes a game, which isn’t unreasonable, he could top 40 catches for just the third time.
“It’s all about just getting the ball to us and we’ll catch it and do what we can do with it,” Peterson said.