Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2019


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Vikings’ Cook Looks Like ‘Mr. Breakout’

 

Enjoy a Sunday notes column that leads off with Vikings third-year running back Dalvin Cook.

Do the simplest search of Cook’s name on Google and see the word “breakout” come up on your screen. Anticipation is prevalent that the sometimes injured Cook will be healthy and rank near the top among NFL comeback players in 2019.

The Vikings made it clear during spring practices their new assistant coaches will have the offense prioritizing running the football next season. No one is more important to achieving that goal than Cook who as a rookie in 2017 ran for 354 yards in his first four games before injuring his left knee and missing the rest of the season.

Last season he wasn’t always healthy but managed to play in 11 games, starting 10 and rushing for 615 yards, averaging an impressive 4.8 yards per carry. That is the kind of production the Vikings expected when they selected the former Florida State running back in the early second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Vikings will open training camp later this month with high expectations from the explosive runner if he is healthy. He can be one of the NFL’s better rushers and balance an offense that starts with expensive quarterback Kirk Cousins and two of the league’s best receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. “…We expect Dalvin, the way he’s looked and if he can stay healthy, to have a big breakout season this year,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told Sports Headliners.

The Vikings have even changed their blocking scheme to more effectively blend the pass and run. “There’s no doubt about with what we’re doing offensively (emphasis on running), he’s going to get a lot of opportunity in the games,” Spielman said.

Backing up Cook could be rookie Alexander Mattison, a third round draft selection from Boise State who had consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons for the Broncos. At 5-11, 220-pounds, he is powerfully built, and Spielman is excited about the rookie.

“He’s one of those guys, when you have to run the clock out, he has the ability to get extra yards after contact, keep the chains moving,” Spielman said. “But the thing that I think that surprised me a little bit was how well he caught the ball out of the backfield and how quickly he has picked up pass protection. …”

Tre Jones

Tre Jones, the Duke sophomore point guard who played at Apple Valley, is the No. 8 college basketball player in the country for next season, per Andy Katz. The college basketball authority listed his top 25 players Friday on NCAA.com. Michigan State guard Cassius Winston ranked No. 1, while no Golden Gophers made the top 25 or a list of 15 honorable mention players that included Minnesota native McKinley Wright, who will be a junior guard at Colorado in the fall.

It would be an odd development but not unprecedented if New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler switches uniforms to the Twins this week. The Mets open a two-game Interleague series with the Twins on Tuesday and Minnesota is searching for trades to bolster the pitching staff. Wheeler is 6-6 this season, with 130 strikeouts in 119 innings.

Giants starting ace Madison Bumgarner’s name is linked to the Twins and other clubs regarding a possible July trade. The July 15 issue of Sports Illustrated points out the Giants, who already are out of contention to win the NL West Division, also have trade chips in bullpen pitchers with strong resumes—Sam Dyson, Will Smith and Tony Watson.

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan, writing in the current issue, refers to the surprising Twins “as real” after a pre-All-Star Game Break performance that had them leading the majors in home runs and taking first place in the AL Central. “They simply have more talent than the second-place Indians and will win their first division title in nine years,” Sheehan said.

Any chance 36-year-old Joe Mauer, in his first season of retirement, will contemplate a comeback next year? “No, I am good,” he told Sports Headliners.

What words would the former Twins great want on his tombstone? “Well, that’s a great question. A good person, and obviously I love to compete, and I love to play baseball. Just a good person, a good teammate and a good family man.”

Wild left wing Jason Zucker talking about next season: “I think a 30 goal season is something that I not only look forward to but something I know I can do. So that’s definitely where I am at.”

Zucker had 33 goals during the 2017-18 season, the only time he has scored 30 or more. The 27-year-old has spent his eight year NHL career with the Wild and his name has been rumored in trade talks. Zucker said the positive about that is other teams apparently want him, but he loves being part of this community.

Vikings single game digital tickets go on sale to the general public starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. Preseason ($20 and up) and regular season ($62 or more) tickets are available online only via Ticketmaster.

University of Iowa football single game tickets also go on sale Thursday, with $80 the cost to see the Gopher game in Iowa City on November 16. Among Iowa’s seven home games, that is the highest single game price except for Penn State at $95. (Youth tickets are $25 for all Hawkeye home games.)

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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