NFL Player News
Cook (knee) said Monday that he has began jogging but remains without a firm timetable to return to full football activities, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports.
The running back is a little over three months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, so his lack of extensive activity to date shouldn't be viewed as a concern at this stage of his recovery. Assuming Cook endures no significant snags during the rehab process, he should be at or near full strength for the beginning of training camp next summer, though the Vikings will almost certainly monitor his workload carefully during practices. While Latavious Murray and Jerick McKinnon proved to be an effective backfield tandem once the rookie was shut down for the season in Week 5, a healthy Cook profiles as the clear No. 1 back for Minnesota heading into the 2018 campaign.
McKinnon carried 10 times for 40 yards and caught 11 of 12 targets for an additional 86 yards during Sunday's 38-7 loss to the Eagles.
McKinnon managed a respectable four yards per carry against the toughest run defense in the NFL, but he did most of his damage catching short passes as his team played from behind for virtually the entire game. McKinnon enjoyed an increase in his usage as a pass catcher this year, finishing with career highs in targets, catches and receiving yards. He also posted personal bests in rushing yards and total touchdowns, which could support his value on the free-agent market this offseason.
Blount rushed six times for 21 yards and a touchdown but wasn't targeted in the passing game during Sunday's 38-7 NFC championship win over Minnesota.
Blount contributed little outside of an 11-yard rushing touchdown that gave his team a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. While Jay Ajayi is certainly the favorite to lead Philadelphia in carries during the Super Bowl after getting 18 rushing attempts in this one, Blount's two-game touchdown streak suggests he has a decent chance of finding paydirt against his former team.
Ajayi rushed 18 times for 73 yards and caught all three of his targets for 26 more during Sunday's 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC championship.
Ajayi was wasting his season away on a mediocre Dolphins club until a trade to the Eagles gave him an opportunity to make noise in the playoffs. He's capitalized on that opportunity with 197 scrimmage yards in two games, though most of the credit for this win should go to Nick Foles and the passing game. The shifty running back got 18 carries to LeGarrette Blount's six, but Blount's power-running style allowed him to find the end zone for the second consecutive game while Ajayi was once again kept out. Still, Ajayi should be expected to lead Philadelphia's balanced attack in rushing two weeks from now in the Super Bowl.
Burkhead (knee) rushed once for five yards and failed to bring in his only target in Sunday's 24-20 AFC conference championship game victory over the Jaguars.
Burkhead's role turned out to be unexpectedly minimal in his first game action since Week 15, as his only touch was a first-half end-around rush. The fifth-year pro didn't appear to suffer any setbacks to his knee during the contest, and with lead back Dion Lewis notching just nine carries overall in his own right, it appears that his scant opportunity was essentially a byproduct of game script. Burkhead also saw fellow pass-catching specialist James White garner six touches and five total targets, which also played a factor in his scarce usage. It remains to be seen how master game planner Bill Belichick will opt to utilize his three-headed backfield in Super Bowl LII, but given Burkhead's red-zone success on the ground in the latter portion of the regular season, it's likely he'll be in for a more prominent role.
Fournette ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries while adding 13 yards on two catches during Sunday's 24-20 loss in New England.
Fournette put the Jaguars up by 11 in the second quarter when he bulldozed up the middle through New England's front for a four-yard score. His impact from then on was minimal as the Patriots focused on taking away the run game and forcing Blake Bortles to throw the ball in disadvantageous downs and distances. The formula worked. Fournette is an athletic freak who saw a whopping 23.4 touches per game in the regular season and another 25.7 in the playoffs. His failure to average four yards per carry can be attributed, in large part, to the ability of opposing defenses to key on him with Jacksonville's iffy pass offense. Look for Jacksonville to try to improve its pass offense in 2018 in order to open up more looks for its big power back.
Lewis rushed nine times for 34 yards and brought in seven of eight targets for 32 yards in Sunday's 24-20 AFC championship game win over the Jaguars. He also lost a fumble and gained 34 yards on two kickoff returns.
The Patriots' lead back didn't see much work on the ground, with game flow making the passing attack a priority, particularly in the second half. Lewis also lost control of the ball after hauling in a 20-yard pass from the arm of Danny Amendola on a fourth-quarter trick play. Despite the miscue, the 27-year-old did play a key role through the air, as he drew even with Amendola for the team co-lead in receptions. Lewis also picked an optimal time for his longest run of an afternoon in which he was consistently stuffed near the line of scrimmage, squirting loose for an 18-yard jaunt on 3rd-and-9 with 1:30 remaining and the Jaguars still holding on to their final timeout. The scamper essentially sealed the victory and punched a ticket to Super Bowl LII for New England, a game in which Lewis will look to see an uptick in rushing opportunities.
Grant caught all three of his targets for 59 yards and added a two-yard carry during Sunday's 24-20 loss to New England.
Grant caught as many passes, and for more yardage, on Sunday as he did in the entire regular season. More special-teams ace than useful back for much of the season, Grant was active in place of Chris Ivory on Sunday and ripped off catches-and-runs of 24 and 20 yards to set up Jacksonville's first touchdown of the game. Jacksonville is loaded at tailback with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, but with Jacksonville's potential ability to get out from Ivory's contract in the offseason, Grant might get more action in 2018.
Ivory (coach's decision) is inactive for Sunday's AFC championship game at New England, Mike Kaye of FirstCoastNews.com reports.
Unavailable for each of the Jags' three playoff games to date, Ivory will again don street clothes as Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon handle the bulk of the RB reps Sunday.
Gillislee (knee) is inactive for Sunday's AFC championship game against the Jaguars.
Sidelined for a third consecutive game due to a sprained knee, Gillislee will yield the backfield to Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead (knee), any of whom are viable candidates to strike against a Jacksonville defense that allowed 136.2 scrimmage yards per game to running backs during the regular season.