When the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers face off on Sunday at noon, the two best running backs that Kirk Cousins has ever played with at the professional level both will be on the field: Alfred Morris and Dalvin Cook.
Morris, now a 49er, was drafted out of Florida Atlantic by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round (173rd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft—coming into the NFL the same year as Cousins, who was Washington's second-round pick in 2012.
Morris and Cousins spent four seasons together from 2012 to 2015, and Morris undoubtedly represents the best backfield mate from the tailback position that Cousins has played with in his career—until this Sunday.
Now, Dalvin Cook has assumed control of that torch.
"I think we got off to a good start in the preseason," Cook said Wednesday. "The preseason showed what we're able do in the running game. It got off to a good start, we just have to continue that through to Week 1."
To take it further, Cook will become the best running back Cousins has played with since Le'Veon Bell in 2011, when Cousins and Bell were teammates on a Michigan State Spartans team that played for a Big Ten Championship.
So if Cook is the best running back in eight years to play alongside Cousins, it's fair to wonder excitedly about what a pairing of that quality can produce for a Vikings pass offense, or more specifically, Cousins' ability to be more deceptive and efficient through the air than he has been in past years.
"The neat thing is I was able to get [my first game action] out of the way [through the preseason carries]," Cook said. "I think now, it's just time for me to [focus] in on what we're doing as an offense. My knee's fine. I'm ready to play … I've been practicing the whole time, getting reps, going full speed—so, there's nothing to that. Just ready to get out there and play at this point."
Cook, the Vikings second-year running back who has successfully worked his way back from last year's Week 4 ACL tear, averaged 88.5 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry (YPC) in the first month of the 2017 regular season.
Any back that finishes with a mark at or above 4.2 YPC is considered to have had an efficient game—so, although it was an extremely small sample size—consider that Cook's 4.8 YPC average over the first four games of 2017 came against two teams that finished with top-5 rush defenses in the NFL by year's end (New Orleans: 2nd, Pittsburgh: 4th).
Cousins was already the best play-action passer in the league according to one of the best cornerbacks in the league Jalen Ramsey, and it's almost time to find out what he will look like out of the play action with a running back of healthy Dalvin Cook's pedigree.
Joe Perovich is an on-air announcer and writer at KFAN, and can be reached on Twitter (@JoePerovich) or by email (JoePerovich@iheartmedia.com)