Mike Boone To See Expanded Role Against Chargers
For the first time all season, Dalvin Cook's backup will be someone other than Alexander Mattison. With Mattison ruled out for Sunday's game against the Chargers due to an ankle injury, the Vikings will turn to Mike Boone and ask him to spell Cook periodically in a crucial late-season game.
Boone may not be a household name, but Vikings diehards are very familiar with him from his time as a preseason star. The 2018 undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati has excelled in the past two Augusts, turning 90 carries into 389 yards (4.3 YPC) and three touchdowns, including a 64-yard burst in the opener this year.
He also is a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, with 13 catches for 145 yards in his preseason career. Ameer Abdullah could see time on obvious passing downs on Sunday, but Boone is also an option to fill that role.
In mop-up duty over the past two regular seasons, Boone has 19 carries for 88 yards. He received a career-high five carries in garbage time against the Lions last week, and could surpass that number against the Chargers. In any event, this will be his first meaningful NFL action.
The Vikings have plenty of confidence in Boone. They've seen what he's done in the preseason, not to mention every day in practice. Dalvin Cook has called Boone his "clone" in the past, and is excited to see him play this weekend.
"I'm expecting big things from Boone and he knows that," Cook told the Pioneer Press. "He's ready to go, no doubt about it. I'm ready to see him light it up. There's no drop off.''
"I think Mike has had a really good year going back to training camp," offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. "I think he’s worked very hard, maybe no player has come as far as he has. Credit to [running backs coach] Kennedy Polamalu on bringing him along. I think the skillset you see in the preseason, you see a really skilled runner, a guy that can be explosive, can make plays when they’re blocked well, can make plays when they’re not blocked so well."
Mattison has seen everywhere from three to 16 touches this season as Cook's backup. Expect somewhere in the five to nine range for Boone, especially since Abdullah could steal a few. But even if Boone doesn't get many opportunities behind Cook, his quickness and acceleration could allow him to turn one into a big play at any time.
In a game the Vikings need for playoff reasons, Boone will be asked to step up.
Video: Kirk Cousins on the Chargers defense, Philip Rivers