Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vikings Position Focus: Wide Receiver

One of my main complaints about the Vikings last year was, "They have too much talent to be playing so poorly." On defense, I would blame the coaching, and on offense I would blame the QB. I realize that there is more to a whole team under achieving than the fault of a coaching staff and a single player, but I would still venture to say that these two issues were at the root of the problem.

Luckily... we have addressed them both.

This is the 5th blog of the "Vikings Position Focus" series, and right now we are focusing on Vikings Wide Receivers. The Vikings come into this season having only lost one receiver in the off-season(Joe Webb). Though there are no guarantees in this game, the almost certain receivers to make the roster are Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright. Last year the Vikings only took 5 wide receivers on their roster, so this leaves one spot available.

The Vikings didn't draft any receivers, they did sign a couple of undrafted free agents, so I would say the front-runner to make this team is WR Adam Theilen. Theilen was an undrafted free agent last year, who came out of Minnesota State University Mankato. Though he spent all of last year on the practice squad, Theilen was in the final discussions to make the 53-man roster. I would say it was between Webb, Theilen and fellow Mankato teammate Rodney Smith. Theilen is off to a hot start in the team organized activities(OTA's), and has showed, thus far, to be Teddy Bridgewater's favorite target. Bridgewater may not be set to be the starter just yet, but it doesn't hurt Theilen's chances to be in good rhythm with him. Theilen is a 6'2" 195lb WR with sneaky fast speed. He is not the most physical wide receiver, but he has good hands and is a good "go-to" guy for a QB.

Next on the list of 53-man roster hopefuls is Theilen's college counter-part, Rodney Smith. This WR is more of the typical Sideline receiver. Standing 6'4" 219lbs, Smith is more of the big-bodied, "Go up and get it" receiver. Smith is not the fastest receiver in the world, but has decent hands and a good physical style of play. Smith did manage to get into 4 games last year, namely on special teams, but never-the-less he was called up to the Vikings roster. I see Smith as a secondary fit for a Norv Turner offense. Norv Turner likes fast receivers who can stretch the field, not only for the big play capability, but also to open up the middle of the field. Though Smith is definitely a contender for the spot, I think Theilen has the edge.

The next likely receiver to give the two above a run for their money is undrafted Northwestern rookie, Kain Colter. Colter shows a versatility that the other receivers lack. In college, Kain played quarterback, running back and receiver. He is a quick receiver, who is a good option for QB's, but we have not seen much from Colter yet. The Vikings did give him the biggest signing bonus of all of the undrafted rookies this year, so there is a small display of confidence. Whether he makes the final roster or not, I would expect him to be on the practice squad.

Earlier, I made the statement that the Vikings were too talented to play as poorly as they did last year. I believe this whole-heartedly. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson; Peterson takes a ton of pressure off of the receivers because 8-10 players are stacked in the box to slow AP down. The Vikings have also made some good moves in the past two years to help their passing game...

The Vikings brought in Packers veteran WR Greg Jennings. Jennings is the second all-time leading touchdown receiver in Packers franchise history. He is an elusive possession receiver who plays with intensity. He has had health issues in the past, but last year he was the Vikings leading receiver with 804 yards and 4 TD's. With a revamped passing game, I would hope Jennings will get closer to the 1,000 yard mark this year.

Breakout Season Coming Up! Second year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson caught fire at the end of last season. He went from purely a special teams expert, to an explosive offensive weapon that catapulted his name into the Rookie of the Year consideration. This is an offensive area where the coaching staff can take the blame. Patterson was horribly underused last year. This is not a mistake the Vikings will make twice. Cordarrelle will be a fun toy for Norv Turner. With Josh Gordon like speed and even better acceleration and elusiveness.... Patterson could have a huge year! Needless to say... I am excited to see how this year unfolds for the flash.

I don't know why the Vikings resigned Jerome Simpson... This is a receiver who has had multiple off-field issues, and his production doesn't warrant keeping him around. I would even venture to say that 3rd year player Jarius Wright would do better than Simpson if given the opportunity. Simpson attained his recognition from the famous flip into the end zone when he played with the Bengals. Jarius Wright, however, claimed some recognition of his own by burning cocky Seattle CB Richard Sherman for a touchdown. I may be on a soap box, but I think Wright has more potential and Simpson isn't worth the headache.

I am very excited about our wide receiving core this year because I think the Vikings might actually tap into all the potential on their squad. Ultimately, because we didn't draft a WR, I am glad we have Simpson on the team(after his suspension). He is a good receiver to have as a safety net in case of injury. Let's hear it for a potential better year in the passing game!

For more blogs, visit http://zachmcclellan.blogspot.com/, and be sure to follow my twitter @Zdiddles

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