Bill Callahan will admit it: running back Dalvin Cook is fun to watch.
The speed, the strength, the agility -- Cook has it all. He's a dynamic playmaker with an explosive skillset, someone who can outrun defenders on the edge or make them miss between the tackles.
Watching Cook as a spectator is entertaining, the Redskins' interim head coach told reporters Tuesday. But trying to contain him on a short week? That's not nearly as enjoyable.
"He’s one of the finest backs I’ve seen in the league," Callahan said of Cook, who the Redskins will see a lot of Thursday night in Minnesota. "We’ve got a ton of respect for him, and he’ll be quite the challenge.”
Finally fully healthy, Cook has been nearly unstoppable seven games into his third NFL season. He leads the NFL with 725 rushing yards on 133 attempts -- good for 5.5 yards per carry -- and is tied for first in the league with eight rushing touchdowns. Minnesota has run him at least 14 times in each game, and he's rewarded his team by eclipsing the 100-yard mark on five occasions. Add in 220 yards on 24 receptions, and Cook has essentially carried Minnesota's sixth-ranked offense.
Cook has been even better during the Vikings' current three-game winning streak, compiling 375 yards and four scores. This uptick in production has coincided with an aerial outburst that's yielded an average of 36.0 points per game.
"Very dynamic, very quick, can read, so with a running back like that you just have to play sound and you have to squad him up," said safety Landon Collins, who leads the Redskins with 59 total tackles. "I don’t know how big he is, but I’m ready for it. I’ll tell you that much."
Take a look at photos from Redskins practice on Tuesday October 22, 2019 before they take on the Minnesota Vikings.
Cook is listed at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, which are ideal measureables for an NFL running back and allow him to "do a little bit of everything" according to Redskins middle linebacker Jon Bostic. He excels at setting up his blocks, Bostic said, and needs only a "split second" to burst through running lanes.
And once Cook gets into the open field, the challenge of stopping him becomes that much more difficult. He may choose to run through defenders or juke past them. Sometimes he'll just outrun everyone, like he did on a 75-yard touchdown scamper against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2.
It was one of his six carries of more than 20 yards, which is tied with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson for most in the NFL.
"As far as that initial burst, once he sees it he hits it, his burst is amazing. Once he hits the hole, his explosion is crazy," defensive lineman Tim Settle said. "You really got to bring it to him; secure the tackle and swarm to the ball. That’s something that we have to do: swarm to the ball, get to the ball, attack the ball and we’ll be fine. We’ll be great."
In an attempt to limit Cook, the Redskins have emphasized setting the edge of the defense so that he cannot bounce his runs outside. That'll force Cook to work between the tackles, where there's much more defensive help.
From there, the Redskins must be sound in their tackling techniques. And if the first defender cannot bring Cook to the ground, there will need to be several others there to ensure the league's leading rusher does not get away.
"Pursuit has to be a real emphasis," Callahan said. "Not that it’s not [normally], but when you have a ball carrier of his capability and caliber, I think it’s really important that you have a more heightened awareness that he’s alive on every cut. He may come out the back door, he’ll bounce it out the front door. He has all those elements of an explosive back."