Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Two thousand one hundred and five.
That's the number Adrian Peterson will be chasing this season.
In 2012, Peterson finished about a trip from the TV to the refrigerator away from Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing mark.
This year, Dickerson might not be so lucky. Peterson says he's aiming for 2,500 yards but since some NFL teams do actually play defense, 2,105 might be a tad more realistic.
Dickerson's record has stood for 29 years and it's not going down without a fight. But neither is Peterson. If history is going to be made in 2013, here are a few things that need to happen.
1. He has to get off to a good start: Peterson (2,097 yards last season) was painfully close to knocking Dickerson from the record books in 2012 ... and he basically did it while snoozing through the first half of the season. In his first six contests, Peterson, still a bit tentative after offseason knee surgery, went over the 100-yard mark just once (Week 4 against Detroit).
Then after Week 6, he realized he had superpowers and sprinted to 1,598 yards the rest of the way (159.8 ypg). If Peterson had started the season like that he would have broken Dickerson's record by more than 400 yards. The early bird catches the worm I guess.
2. The Vikings need to block for him: Peterson can't do it alone. For him to get to 2,105 yards it's going to take a team effort and it starts with his blockers. Fortunately for AP, he's got a few pretty good ones at his disposal.
Fullback Jerome Felton's blocking prowess earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl last season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, another stellar blocker for the Vikes, was also on the NFC All-Star roster. If those two can keep up the good work, there should be plenty of room for Peterson to run in 2013.
3. The defense needs to hold its own: Peterson might as well be waving pom poms because he's going to be the defense's biggest cheerleader this season. And why not? He's needs them more than anybody.
When the Vikings' defense is playing well, odds are Peterson is too. When the defense gets a turnover or forces a three and out, it puts the ball back in Peterson's hands. And when the defense isn't doing its job, it forces the Vikings to pass instead of using Peterson.
In Minnesota's six losses last season, Christian Ponder attempted 35.3 passes per game. In the other ten contests, Ponder was able to rely more on Peterson, resulting in just 27.1 pass attempts per game. The Vikings, 16th in the NFL in yards allowed last season, really need to buckle down on the defensive end if Peterson is going to have a shot at his.
4. The Vikings need some semblance of a passing game: Quantity is important, but so is quality.
Last year in Minnesota's playoff game against the Packers, an injury to Ponder forced the Vikings to use Joe Webb as the starting quarterback. Obviously, that didn't go well.
And it didn't go well for Peterson either. With no passing game to speak of, the Vikings became predictable. Every down without fail, Webb dished it to Peterson and more often than not, he hit a brick wall. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in the contest, well below his season average of six.
It's not a terribly difficult concept to grasp. If teams are expecting the run on every play, Peterson won't be as dangerous. But if Ponder develops chemistry with Greg Jennings and some of his other receivers like rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, the defense has to adjust and that opens up space for Peterson.
Are we expecting Ponder to be Tom Brady 2.0? Of course not. But he can't be a punching bag either. Ponder owes Peterson that much.
5. He'll need some big runs: Peterson didn't make it to 2,000 yards with four and five-yard chunks. He did it with 20-yard bursts.
Peterson recorded 27 runs of 20 or more yards last season. No other player had more than 12.
Some running backs will nickel and dime you all day. Peterson goes for the home run and that's a good MO to have when you're running for history.
6. Dude's gotta stay healthy: Peterson won't be able to pull this off without a clean bill of health.
Dickerson carried the ball 379 times when he broke the record, an average of almost 24 touches per game. That doesn't leave much margin for error.
Seven running backs in NFL history have reached 2,000 yards in a single season. Only one of them (O.J. Simpson in 1973) reached that total in fewer than 16 games.
If AP misses a game, it's over. That simple.
7. He'll have to work the matchups: To get to 2,105, Peterson will need to average about 132 rushing yards per game.
That's not going to happen every week. Which is why Peterson is going to have to load up against some of the Vikings' easier opponents.
The Giants, Cowboys, Packers and Lions all allowed more than 4.5 yards per carry last season. Fortunately for Peterson, all four are on the Vikings' schedule this year.
If Peterson has big games against those teams, it should offset some of his tougher games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati (fourth, eighth and 11th in yards per carry respectively).
I like breaking records as much as the next guy. Just make sure it doesn't happen against me, okay AP?
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