The Minnesota Vikings should be without Adrian Peterson this weekend. The All-Pro running back suffered a foot injury last week and is unlikely to play against the Eagles.
That means Peterson’s backup, Toby Gerhart, should get most of the work for Minnesota -- if, that is, Gerhart is healthy enough to play. He fought through a hamstring injury in Week 14.
The Vikings' uncertain running back situation is a good thing for the Eagles. Or at least it should be. Chip Kelly wasn’t so sure. He has a history against Gerhart, one that comes with unpleasant (if amusing) memories.
“You look at who their backup is in Toby Gerhart in the last couple games has played extremely well, and I know him full well,” Kelly said. “He played against us when I was at Oregon and he had a 39‑carry game for I think 2,085 yards it seemed like to me.”
Gerhart carried the ball 38 times that day in 2009 when Stanford played Oregon. He finished with 223 rushing yards (5.9 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.
Gerhart had an excellent college career, but he hasn’t gotten nearly as much work in the NFL. That’s what happens when you play behind one of the best running backs of his (or any) era. A year ago -- after Peterson returned from an ACL injury to challenge the single-season NFL rushing record -- Gerhart carried the ball just 50 times for 169 yards.
This year, through 13 games, Gerhart has carried the ball 36 times for 283 yards. That works out to a hefty 7.9 yards per carry.
Last week, after Peterson hurt his foot and was taken off the field in Baltimore on a cart, Gerhart played well. He had 15 carries for 89 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
“I think they've done a good job from their personnel standpoint,” Kelly said. “They have another running back that is a workhorse‑type guy so they don't have to drastically change. You go from a big back to a little back and I think some things would change.
“I think they can run the same things with Toby that they ran with Adrian. I think Toby is one of the really, really good backs in this league, he just isn't on the field that much because of who Adrian Peterson is. I don't think it changes that much to be honest with you.”
The Eagles spent much of last week preparing to face Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush. But when Bush hurt himself during pregame warmups, the Eagles suddenly found themselves facing Lions backup Joique Bell. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Eagles were able to make the quick adjustment because they prepare each week “like everybody is healthy.”
“We prepare that all people that are in question, if we don't know if they are healthy, we're going to get their best, all of them are up, and we're going to prepare that way,” Davis said about not knowing for sure whether Peterson or Gerhart will get the most of the work for Minnesota this weekend. “And then we'll adjust as the week goes on and we get more information, just like we would during a game.
“If something happens to one of those guys during a game, we would adjust accordingly, like we did in this game where all of a sudden at the last minute Reggie Bush wasn't up. You just kind of prepare for all of them and then adjust as you go.”