EAGAN, Minn. -- Former Minnesota Vikings star running back Robert Smith said last month Dalvin Cook has what it takes to be a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.
The rushing part should be easy this season. The Minnesota back is second in the NFL with 542 yards, putting him on pace to finish with 1,734.
As for the receiving part, it’s doubtful Cook will reach 1,000 yards this season. But he showed in last Sunday’s 28-10 win over the New York Giants an aspect of his game that Smith raved about.
Cook caught six passes for a career-high 86 yards, all in the first half. He likely would have reached 100 yards receiving for the first time in his three-year career had the Vikings not taken a comfortable lead and thrown just four times in the second half.
“That would be great,” Cook said of having a 100-yard receiving game. “That would be another way to help us win a football game.”
Cook has 21 receptions this season for 200 yards, putting him on pace for 640 receiving yards. That would be the most in a season by a Vikings running back since Moe Williams had 644 in 2003.
“Dalvin very rarely goes down on first contact anytime, but that’s good; you get him out in space,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “We’ve worked extremely hard on the screens, so I think when you can screen, it’s going to slow the pass rush down a little bit. … It helps the overall part of the offense.”
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson is well aware of that as his team prepares to face the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing defense, giving up just 63 yards per game, but Cook’s versatility presents a curveball.
“He runs hard, he runs violent and that’s tough to bring down,” Pederson said. “Our defense has a challenge ahead trying to at least slow him down and try to get him on the ground. But then again, that’s the thing: If you focus too much on that he can beat you through the air.”
Cook carried 21 times for 132 yards against the Giants. In the first half, when he was utilized in the passing game, he had nearly double the number of receiving yards as rushing yards (47).
“It’s great to keep teams honest,’’ Cook said. “If I can continue to make plays on a check down and just on the little things, it’ll keep guys in one-on-one coverage or just get some honest play out there.’’
Cook had catches against the Giants of 24, 22, 19 and 15 yards. On his six receptions from Kirk Cousins, he averaged 14.3 yards.
“I’ve been so encouraged to see the way he’s not only run the ball but you have to remember when he catches the ball, it’s just as important he’s effective there as well, and he has been,” Cousins said.
Cook is developing into perhaps the Vikings’ most versatile running back since Chuck Foreman played for them from 1973-79. Foreman three times rushed for 1,000 yards in a season and in 1975 led the NFL in receiving with 73 catches for 691 yards.
“He can run it and he can catch it,” Foreman said of Cook. “He’s an every-down back and that’s one thing that separates him from a lot of guys.”
If Cook one day has 1,000 yards receiving, that really would separate him. The only NFL players ever to reach 1,000 rushing and receiving in the same season were San Francisco’s Roger Craig in 1985 and Marshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams in 1999.