How wide open is the competition for the last couple spots in the Vikings’ receiver corps? As wide open as it gets. Right now there are just three receivers you can consider locks: Jerome Simpson, Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright. Simpson will be suspended the first three games so that means, assuming the Vikings take 5 receivers, there are currently 3 spots more-or-less up for grabs.
If you had to rank the guys vying for those three spots, Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu would seem to be running 1 and 2, at least on the basis of experience. But a rebuilding team like the Vikes may be less interested in experience than upside. That would give Stephen Burton and Manny Arceneaux the inside track. And if you had to pick an early favorite? It’s tough with so little training camp action to go by, but right now it seems Arceneaux has a leg up.
Arceneaux hasn’t necessarily flashed in camp as big as some other guys (like Greg Childs who was really wowing people before his injury), but he has impressed at least one very important person. That’s receivers coach George Stewart, who sang Arceneaux’s praises to Judd Zulgad.
“Emmanuel Arceneaux has improved more than any player in one year that I’ve ever coached,” Stewart said. “That’s in (all my) years of coaching and in every facet. He’s going to be a player that’s going to help us again this year.”
When asked which specific areas have seen the biggest improvement for Arceneaux, Stewart said, “Everything. Route running, run blocking, catching the ball, confidence in what he’s doing. The whole gamut as a receiver. Now is he ready to go to the Hall of Fame? No, but he has improved from year one to year two, and as a coach and as a player that’s what you strive to have.”
It certainly helps to have a coach behind you like that. Another factor in Arceneaux’s favor is his relatively low salary compared to Michael Jenkins, a man he is in direct competition with at X receiver (at least going by the initial depth chart). Arceneaux will make $465,000 in 2012, compared to Jenkins who is set to pull in $2.5 million. That’s not a huge number for Jenkins but keep in mind he’s aging and coming off an injury. Physical condition and price are two areas where both Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu have an advantage over Jenkins. Ditto Stephen Burton, though Burton himself is coming off an IR stint.
So if this battle does come down to a three-way competition between Jenkins, Aromashodu and Arceneaux, Jenkins could be in trouble. The best thing Jenkins has going for him is experience, which can’t be discounted when you’re trying to develop a young quarterback like Christian Ponder. Do the Vikings really want to roll with a receiver corps whose most-seasoned member is Percy Harvin (Aromashodu has him in years but Harvin has obviously gotten many more snaps)? Or do they want at least one guy who can lend a little grizzled-old-man savvy to the mix? Having a wily veteran like Donald Driver around probably helped Aaron Rodgers quite a bit.
That argument becomes moot if Jenkins can’t get himself totally right physically. If Arceneaux truly has improved as much as Stewart says, he seems like he would fit the bill as an outside receiver to back-up Jerome Simpson. That’s the role Greg Childs was probably set to fill before blowing out both his knees. Childs’ misfortune could be Arceneaux’s big break.