EAGAN, Minn. -- This week's trade for running back Cam Akers drew a natural question around the Minnesota Vikings: Will he replace starter Alexander Mattison, who has taken the majority of snaps this season for the NFL's worst rushing offense?
Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said that coach Kevin O'Connell would decide starting assignments.
"But we haven't lost confidence in Alex Mattison," Phillips added. "I will say that. Unfortunately we've had a couple turnovers in the run game where we obviously need to clean that up. Everyone's aware of that. But we still feel very strongly in Alex and [backup Ty Chandler] and those guys being able to go in and produce. We know we have to be better in the run game. A lot of that starts with us, and the players fundamentally. All those things we've addressed, and from what I saw [Wednesday] in the first practice, I think it will improve dramatically."
O'Connell is scheduled to speak with reporters Friday afternoon.
Mattison said he welcomed the addition of Akers but had no reason to think it would impact his own role on the team.
"That's not a bad move at all," Mattison said. "In any situation, you want to make your team better. With the opportunity to do so, we definitely welcome whatever decision they might make up top. I'm excited to have an addition to the running back room. I think he can definitely add value."
Mattison fumbled twice in the Vikings' 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. He lost both, but the second was reversed by a penalty against the Eagles. Overall, he has rushed for 62 yards on 19 carries in two games since the Vikings promoted him this offseason to replace Dalvin Cook as their primary back.
Akers started 15 games for the Rams over the past four seasons, the first two of which came with O'Connell and Phillips on the Rams' coaching staff. Akers had his own struggles in Los Angeles, and he managed only 29 yards rushing on 22 carries in Week 1. Although Akers isn't a clear upgrade over Mattison, Phillips noted that Akers won't have a steep learning curve to understand the basics of the Minnesota offense, which is modeled after the Rams'. That makes it likely that he'll be available to play at least some snaps in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"We're going to have to see where he's at," Phillips said. "It certainly will help him that he's been in the system. A lot of the terminology will be similar, and protection-wise most of it will be very similar, which is always a big thing for running backs [and] being able to trust a guy to put him in the game."