Dalvin Cook is on pace to become just the third different Minnesota Vikings running back to have a 300-carry season, and it’s showing.

Cook has averaged 25.4 attempts over the past five games to give him 219 for the season. He had 18 carries for 61 yards in last Sunday’s 28-27 win over Carolina while sitting most of the third quarter with an ankle injury.

“You know what I think, he’s just beat up,” Vikings offensive Gary Kubiak said when asked about Cook’s injury in a KFAN radio interview that aired Tuesday. “He’s been hit pretty hard the last couple of weeks, taken some poundings.

“We struggled to get the run game going (against the Panthers). It’s at that point of the season, so we’ve got to get him freshened up this week and get him back to being himself. But I think he’s just kind of beat up over the past couple of weeks.”

After being off Monday and Tuesday, the Vikings return to practice Wednesday. It remains to be seen how much work Cook, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,130 yards, might do.

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“I don’t know yet,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Cook’s status Monday. “I got a report this morning. He said he feels good. We’ll just see where he’s at.”

Cook was hurt early in the third quarter when he was hit by a swarm of Panthers defenders. He fumbled, and safety Jeremy Chinn scooped up the ball and ran 28 yards for a touchdown. Cook was helped off by two trainers but was able to return and ran five times for 21 yards the rest of the way.

Cook ranks second in the NFL in rushing attempts and yards behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, who has 256 carries for 1,257 yards — and Cook sat out one game and nearly a full half of another because of a groin injury. He could become just the third different player in Vikings history to have 300 carries in a season.

Chester Taylor had 303 carries in 2006, and Adrian Peterson did it four times, including a team-record 363 carries in 2008.

Turnover woes

The Vikings last season were tied for fifth in the NFL with a turnover differential of plus-11. This year, they’re tied for 27th in the 32-team NFL at minus-6 differential. Over the past two games, the differential has been minus-4.

The Vikings lost 31-28 to Dallas on Nov. 22 when they lost two fumbles and an interception to the Cowboys’ one interception. They were able to beat Carolina despite losing three fumbles and throwing one interception.

Chinn ran back two of the fumbles for touchdowns on consecutive plays from scrimmage early in the third quarter, one for 1y yards after a fumble by quarterback Kirk Cousins. The third fumble, a muffed punt by Chad Beebe with 2:10 left in the game, gave the Panthers the ball at the Vikings’ 9-yard line.

“The turnovers, we just keep emphasizing them,” Zimmer said. “There’s not a whole lot more you can do other than that. That’s a big thing. Usually, the times when we win the turnovers, we typically have a really good chance to win the game.”

Safety Harrison Smith said it also comes down to the Vikings needing to force more turnovers. They have six interceptions over the past four games, including one by linebacker Eric Kendricks at Minnesota’s 7-yard line in the second quarter against Carolina.

“It’s kind of obvious, take care of the ball and force more interceptions, more forced fumbles,’’ Smith said. “I don’t think we’ve done enough of that. … But what we have done is we’ve had really timely turnovers. Red-zone interceptions.”

Moves

The Vikings waived long snapper Austin Cutting, linebacker Hardy Nickerson and released cornerback Marcus Sayles from the practice squad. They hope to re-sign Cutting to the practice squad. The team also protected practice squad tight end Brandon Dillion.

Briefly

Minnesota has three players ranked in the top five in the NFL at their positions: wide receivers Justin Jefferson (second) and Adam Thielen (third), Cook (third), Kendricks (third) and Cousins (fifth). … Jacksonville’s kicker on Sunday is expected to be Chase McLaughlin, who spent the first nine weeks of the season on Minnesota’s practice squad. … The Vikings are seventh in the NFL in total offense. Their last Top 5 finish was fifth in 2009.