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Ty Chandler Looks Like Minnesota’s Best Running Back

Plenty of Vikings helped themselves out in the preseason opener. None more than Ty Chandler who looked ready for a starter's workload.
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Regardless of how many starters see playing time, that first preseason game really makes it feel like football is right around the corner. This year the Vikings preseason got kicked off with a nice long trip to Seattle to play the Seahawks. It may have resulted in a 24-13 loss that was primarily fueled by lackluster play from third and fourth stringers in the second half, but there were still plenty of players that helped make their case for regular season playing time including a dynamic young running back.

Ty Chandler Looks Like Minnesota’s Best Running Back

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Ty Chandler

Chandler was a popular pick to earn the backup running back job behind Alexander Mattison going into Viking training camp. He deserved to be given his outstanding play in preseason a year ago. In Seattle, Chandler picked up right where he left off showcasing his dynamic three-down skillset. He essentially was the offense in the first half playing with Nick Mullens and the twos. Chandler racked up 70 total yards while showing real explosiveness with the ball in his hands and a natural feel as a receiver out of the backfield.

At this point, Chandler probably has the backup job all but wrapped up given his play and ineffective competition. However, it might be time to start having a debate on whether he, not Mattison, should be starting in 2023. Mattison is a fine back, but Chandler is both a better receiver and a better runner in space. Chandler is just an all-around more dynamic player than Mattison is on tape. Sure, one could argue he was running against a combination of young starters and backups for the Seahawks. But he was also running behind a second-unit offensive line that proved to be extremely porous. He’s not likely to get the opportunity to jump Mattison ahead of the Week 1 matchup against Tampa, but don’t be surprised if Chandler is the starting back at some point early in the season.

Luiji Vilain

Talk about a guy who was on nobody’s radar before kickoff against the Seahawks. The defensive line in general played great in the first half but Vilain was by far the most disruptive player. He was practically living in the backfield, applying pressure from both edge spots. He only ended up with a single sack, but he had at least a few more pressures on Drew Lock. The Vikings would love for the former undrafted free agent to become a factor in their pass rush rotation. The buzz will really start to pick up if Vilain can repeat that performance against Tennessee next week.

Mekhi Blackmon

Rookie corners often have a hard time adjusting in the NFL. That’s why Blackmon’s display in the first half was so encouraging. He was never out of position and sticky in man coverage. The few times he was targeted he seemed to always be there to make a play on the ball. Reports have largely been positive about Blackmon early in camp, so it was good to see that translate to live action. The fact that he was starting over last year’s second-round pick Andrew Booth might mean he’s already established himself in the pecking order. It will be interesting to watch the jostling for position behind Byron Murphy for the remainder of the Vikings preseason.

Did Themselves No Favors

Lewis Cine

It might be time to start calling a duck a duck when it comes to Lewis Cine. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first selection as Vikings GM has been objectively bad whenever he’s been on the field. He failed to make noise in camp or Vikings preseason games last year. And while his rookie season was cut very short due to injury, he had already been relegated to special teams duty by that point. He honestly wasn’t even very good on special teams from the little we saw.

The game in Seattle was more of the same. Cine was routinely out of position in pass coverage; he seemed especially lost in zone looks when lining up outside the box. He also seemed to be playing extremely tentatively. When Cine was drafted his strengths were supposed to be his decisiveness on reads and his closing speed. Right now, it feels like he’s just unable to trust himself and his hesitancy is robbing him of his playmaking ability. If Cine doesn’t start getting comfortable and making an impact soon, he’s going to get hit with the bust label.

DeWayne McBride

No Viking had a worse showing in the first week of preseason than running back DeWayne McBride. While he was drafted in the seventh round, the expectation was that McBride would potentially make an impact this preseason. It’s not all that uncommon for late round backs to do so. The bad omens started when recently added camp body Abram Smith was getting snaps ahead of McBride. It even led legendary Vikings broadcaster Paul Allen to note his surprise at the circumstance.

When McBride did get on the field, he quickly showed why he’d been moved down the depth chart. He displayed the elusiveness of a parked car on a cringy kick-off return opportunity and more of the same out of the backfield. McBride looked about as lost as a running back possibly could when he was on the field. After that performance, it would be shocking to even see him make the practice squad.

Ivan Pace

This might seem a bit unfair because Pace really didn’t play that poorly. He just didn’t live up to the tremendous hype that has been flowing out of Vikings camp the past weeks. Pace appeared to be a liability in coverage, especially in zone looks. Granted it was sometimes difficult to tell whether it was Cine’s blown coverage or Pace’s. That’s going to be an area he’ll have to improve if he wants to work into the linebacker rotation.

Pace did manage to make a handful of tackles and was often seen in the camera frame. He just didn’t do anything that wowed or popped on tape. Typically, in the preseason linebackers get plenty of opportunities to make splash plays given the level of quarterback play and vanilla offensive sets that get put out late in games. Pace is going to face more scrutiny than normal for an undrafted free agent given the camp hype surrounding him. The good news is he’ll have another few opportunities before Vikings preseason wraps up.

Main Photo Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports


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