June 9, 2021; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) catches a pass in exercises at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the insanely long injury report this week, there is some news on the injury front for the Minnesota Vikings. First round pick Christian Darrisaw finally records full practice for the first time. Dalvin Cook is back on the practice field, although he only has light duties. From Wednesday, Kene Nwangwu and Dan Chisena have been assigned to return to training.
Nwangwu is the fourth round rookie from the state of Iowa that has piqued my interest. He is a guy with speed at Tyreek Hill level. Hill had a time of 40 of 4.29 seconds. Nwangwu has a contested 40 time of 4.29 or 4.31 seconds. Even if the 0.02 slower time is the right one, that’s still phenomenally fast.
When will they activate Nwangww?
As we know, and what I wrote about recently, Coach Zimmer never rushes to get rookies involved. However, Nwangwu has a lot of special teams value as a kick returner. Ihmir Smith-Marsette started the season as the kick-returner for Vikings, but missed the first two practices of the week with a toe injury. If he’s not ready to go on Sunday and if he’s deemed ready to play, this could be just the opening Nwangwu needs.
Should Smith-Marsette be ready to play or if they believe Nwangwu is not, they may very well wait as they have 21 days after designating him to return to training before having to activate him for the 53 man selection. Otherwise, he would have to be placed on the injured reserve for the remainder of the season. After taking him off IR, you would assume he should be almost done, and the team wants to get him involved quickly.
What will he bring to the team?
Obviously that blistering speed will be a big factor, but Nwangwu is more than just speed. He knows how to use the pace he possesses. Being able to run fast in a straight line without any opposition is great, but this is the NFL, and that alone won’t make it. There are two things a player must be able to do once he has the ball in his hands – to take advantage of the speed he has. Nwangwu can do them both.
First, being able to read the blocks in front of you so you can find the gaps to run into. Running fast against a brick wall will get you just as far as running slow. Nowhere. You should also be able to break a tackle if it comes your way. Sometimes you can make the edge and get away with just speed, but more often than not, the other guys will get you.
With a 6 ft 1 in, 210 lb frame, he can break a tackle and even keep pumping the legs once tackled to gain a few extra yards. Pete Bercich did an excellent “Vikings Movie Room,” showing that he could put these skills to good use throughout his college career.
Completion of the RB Room
When fully up and running he will also finish what will become a really good running back unit. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison are undoubtedly a top RB duo in the league. Adding a dynamic player like Kene Nwangwu to the mix could take it to a whole new level. A healthy mix of the three and also some Ameer Abdullah assuming he sticks around could be the best choice. Only three weeks into the season, I think we’ve already seen that putting Dalvin Cook in the ground is not the right choice.
When they choose to get him involved, and whichever way they want to do it, I’m excited to see him go. He can be a spark to make this team an even more exciting team to watch.