Jim Schwartz spent five years as the Lions coach so he's intimately familiar with trying to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. In eight regular-season games against Detroit from 2009-2013, Peterson rushed for 860 yards on 153 carries, a 5.6 average, and scored nine times.
And now, after almost a full season away from the game, Peterson's back in Minnesota's backfield and he looks like he never left. Which goes a long way in explaining why Schwartz thinks the 30-year-old will return to his impossible-to-tackle form.
"You're talking about a running back -- I mentioned J.J. Watt, not being able to stop him with double teams -- Adrian Peterson's a guy that you have a hard time stopping just with an eight-man front," Schwartz, who will serve as a consultant for NFL officials this season, told NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah on the Move the Sticks Podcast (via NFL.com).
It's one of the reasons the Vikings weren't in any hurry to get rid of Peterson (who said he contemplated retirement this offseason): his presence makes second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's life infinitely less complicated.
"There's still some things for (Teddy) to figure out, but it does make it a lot easier for quarterbacks," Schwartz continued. "And it makes it a lot easier for wide receivers, when you know you're going to be one-on-one for a significant portion of the game, and that's what Adrian Peterson does."
We talked about Peterson, Bridgewater and the upstart Vikings on the latest Eye on Football Podcast, starting at the 21:30 mark below. (And remember, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.)
And while no one disputes Peterson's value to the rest of the Vikings' offense -- Bridgewater's growth, in particular -- recent history says the eighth-year running back probably won't face many eight-man fronts anyway.
NFL percentage of RB runs vs. 8+ men in the box 2013 - 16.9% 2014 - 14.4% (Credit to ESPN) Often discussed strategy not put to use much— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) June 1, 2015
Of course, if Peterson shreds conventional seven-man fronts next season, defenses will have no choice but to adapt. Typically, that means putting another player near the line of scrimmage, which simplifies Bridgewater's responsibilities in the passing game.
Whether this, along with what should be a very good defense, will be enough to get the Vikings back to the playoffs is another matter, though our colleague and podcast partner Will Brinson is jumping on the bandwagon early.