Mike Zimmer: Dalvin Cook has 'chance to be special'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Dalvin Cook has yet to run in pads for the Minnesota Vikings, and it will be some time before coaches begin to establish a pecking order for a backfield that hasn't really needed one for the better part of a decade. But Cook's early work has coach Mike Zimmer believing the Vikings might have a unique player on their hands.

"I think he's got a chance to be special," Zimmer said on Thursday. "There was a play yesterday that, Xavier Rhodes is trying to catch him, and he's hauling now. I just think this guy has got a chance to be pretty good. Now, he's got some things he's got to work on, like all young backs, but I've been very impressed with him this spring."

The Vikings were able to take a longer look at Cook during their spring practices as Latavius Murray recovered from ankle surgery, and Zimmer said the team will have time to sort out workloads at the running back position during training camp. But Cook's explosiveness has been noteworthy during camp; it says something that Rhodes, whom NFL.com clocked at 22.4 mph on his 100-yard interception return last November, couldn't catch him.

Cook, who fumbled 13 times in college, didn't have any in Zimmer's recollection this spring, though the coach was quick to point out that defenders aren't trying to strip the ball during run drills when players aren't in pads. Ball security has been a point of emphasis for Cook and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu this spring, though, and the Vikings probably will focus on it during training camp next month, along with Cook's development in pass protection.

Murray should be ready to return by training camp, and the days of the Vikings giving an overwhelming share of the workload to one back probably ended when Adrian Peterson left. But as both a running back and a receiver, Cook figures to be prominently featured in the offense during his first season.

"It was a great pick by [general manager] Rick [Spielman], being able to make the trade [up in the draft to get Cook]," Zimmer said. "He's been a great kid off the field. He's been a great kid in the meetings. We'll just kind of go from there."

Here are some other notes and observations from the final day of Vikings minicamp:

  • Laquon Treadwell enjoyed a strong spring, and though it will be easier to make a complete assessment of the second-year receiver when cornerbacks can press him in training camp, he closed the offseason program on an impressive note Thursday, making a leaping catch behind Trae Waynes in the corner of the end zone to haul in a touchdown from Sam Bradford. The Vikings had hoped Treadwell could help alleviate some of their red zone issues last season, and it's one area where he could make an immediate impact this year.

  • T.J. Clemmings and Rashod Hill sat out because of injuries on Thursday, making Willie Beavers and Jeremiah Sirles the team's backup tackles. The addition of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers should improve the Vikings' offensive line in 2017, but it's worth remembering they're only an injury away from using a young player in an important spot again this year.

  • The Vikings concluded camp with an alumni barbecue, as they've done in recent years, and players such as linebacker Matt Blair and defensive tackle John Randle were on hand to mingle with current players. So too was the recently retired Chad Greenway, who already looked like he'd slimmed down quite a bit from his playing days.