EAGAN, Minn. — It’s looking less and less likely that star running back Dalvin Cook will play for the Vikings this weekend. He missed practice again Thursday morning as he continues to recover from a groin injury.
It’s possible the Vikings will rule Cook out as soon as Friday afternoon for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
That said, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak seems incredibly confident in backup Alexander Mattison should he have to shoulder the load. Just look at what Mattison did last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, rushing for 112 yards on 20 carries while filling in for Cook.
“I guess the best compliment I can give (Alexander) is that when Dalvin leaves the game I don’t change my mindset at all,” Kubiak said. “We are really proud of how he played the other night. I would say everybody expects it from him because of watching him work and watching him practice.”
While the Vikings continue to get solid play out of first-round picks Justin Jefferson at receiver and Jeff Gladney at cornerback, second-round pick Ezra Cleveland, an offensive lineman, is still having a hard time cracking the starting lineup.
“He’s getting better every day out on the practice field,” Kubiak said. “I think Ezra’s putting himself in position that he deserves opportunities.”
After drafting Cleveland to be a cornerstone tackle, the Vikings moved him to guard to help his development. He’s getting reps at both positions in practice, according to Kubiak, as is fellow offensive lineman Oli Udoh.
“We are trying to move some guys around and get them as many reps throughout the course of the year,” Kubiak said. “Just kind of see how they jump at us and how they progress.”
It raises the question: When will Cleveland get to see the field?
“I think his time is coming,” Kubiak said. “You’re going to see him get an opportunity here at some point, and he’s really working hard to prepare for that opportunity.”
The main reason Cleveland’s name is being brought up is because starting right guard Dru Samia has struggled immensely while filling in for the injured Pat Elflein. After a month in the starting lineup, Samia is dead last among NFL guards, according to Pro Football Focus.
“We have to continue to grow Dru and have got to work through some of the mistakes and those types of things,” Kubiak said. “We are also hanging onto the positive things he’s doing and understanding we have a good, young player on our hands. You’ve got to go through some growing pains along the way.”