Revisiting the Vikings Receiver Corps Post Minicamp

Jun 11, 2013; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) chases wide receiver Jerome Simpson (81) in drills at the Minnesota Vikings Minicamp at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

 

OTAs and minicamp are in the books, so this would be a natural time to revisit various positions of interest on the Vikings’ roster. Wide receiver got the bulk of the media attention during the OTA/minicamp period and with good reason. People are intensely curious about how the Vikings’ receiver corps will come together. Lots of new faces in there plus some hold-overs who are still somewhat unknown quantities. Let’s run it down again:

1. Greg Jennings

His little early ankle problem did not hamper him once it was time to take the field. Jennings came in with a reputation as a pro’s pro and he’s done nothing to alter that. His work with Cordarrelle Patterson shows he’s willing to mentor the young guys, increasing his value beyond the on-field production. Jennings was brought in to provide veteran stability and has stepped right into a leadership role.

2. Jerome Simpson

His Superman catch had everyone buzzing. Nice. But we already knew Simpson is a fine athlete. Can he find consistency? Will he put the work in to become a better route-runner? Will he get over his habit of dropping passes? Can he become the downfield weapon the Vikings need? Still tons of questions about this guy.

3. Jarius Wright

Got some nice positive mentions including one from Pete Prisco. He really seems to be coming along nicely. I have to believe the ultimate plan is for this guy to slide into a #3 receiver role behind Jennings and, eventually, Cordarrelle Patterson. Might see lots more action if Patterson develops slowly and Simpson struggles.

4. Cordarrelle Patterson

His talent is getting rave reviews. But there is a long road ahead before this guy becomes a truly polished NFL receiver. Fans are high on him but I think it would be more prudent to take a wait-and-see attitude. There’s more to this whole thing than just being fast and having some moves.

5. Stephen Burton

Another guy who got some good reviews. But really it’s hard to find a role for him on this team if things work out right. There are more talented players below him on the depth chart. The Vikes are hoping one or two of those guys catch on, making Burton expendable. He clings to his #5 spot by virtue of experience.

6. Joe Webb

So Joe Webb caught everything thrown his way in minicamp? Great. I’m pretty sure most of the receivers did. The basic ability to catch balls thrown to you in no-contact practice sessions is, I would say, the minimum that should be expected. So Joe did the minimum. Get back to me when this guy wins a roster spot. The people saying he can be Percy Harvin really need to stop taking drugs.

7. Adam Thielen

This guy was the surprise riser of minicamp. The Minnesota State-Mankato prospect came in as a UFA and showed great speed and unexpected playmaking. He stood out over all the other try-out guys and has asserted himself as a guy you have to watch in training camp. Can he leapfrog a couple guys and grab that fifth spot? We’ll see.

8. Greg Childs

He’s still rehabbing from the double patella tendon blow-out and so hasn’t been able to actually practice. The tenacious young man warrants our attention not just because he’s a feel-good story. He warrants it because, if he does manage to get himself right, he could be truly valuable to the Vikings. Of all the guys on the roster, he probably has the most immediate potential as a downfield receiver. He was drafted because of those attributes. So it would really help the Vikings if he somehow managed to stay healthy and show some stuff in camp. But it’s a big big question mark.

The rest:

LaMark Brown
Erik Highsmith
Rodney Smith
Chris Summers

Where are we at?

Not a lot has been resolved so far. Guys pretty much showed what we already knew they had. Thielen was the one guy who sort of established himself. Nobody fell out of it and, the better news, nobody got hurt. Training camp will be interesting for multiple reasons. We need to see Simpson and Wright more, we need to see some early development from Patterson and of course that depth chart needs to be filled in at the bottom.

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  • 3kolu

    There always seems to be a surprise move by teams when they make their final cuts and WR is no exception. Greg Jennings was GB’s best WR and gives Ponder a WR who could schematically beneficial, rather than ultra-dynamic. He is also going to be another coach on the field and a mentor off it. This is a game of inches and the young players can use as much help as they can get and Jennings will get that respect factor. Jerome Simpson looked like he had his explosion back and that could be all the difference in the world for him, but he needs to make the most of his opportunities when on the field. They only need him to man the outside till CP can learn the intricacies of route running, defense recognition, and all the responsibilities of being an elite WR. Jarius Wright came in last year and contributed, he only needs to be more consistent as I expect him to be more confident, stronger and comfortable in Musgrave’s offense. He should be entrenched as their slot WR. Burton has been a non-factor and has to stand out come training camp. He has 2 things going in his favor first is that he had did good on OTA’s and minicamp and second, he is in his 3rd year and this is usually when everything comes together for WR’s. The bad news is that this could be it for Burton, he has to make a move and he will not be afforded the benefit of the doubt. The Vikings love Webb’s athleticism, size, speed, hands and versatility. But he needs to be able to actually play the WR position. The good news is that he did play WR in college and he actually has good hands and long arms. He could be a redzone monster and I’m convinced that his game can afford the Vikings to stick in certain packages for him if and when he can get down his route running. He already has the ability to identify defenses so its just the physicality and mentality of being an NFL receiver that he has encounter to see if he has the ability to make the switch. Thielen is going to have to make a big splash to make the squad, but he reminds of Austin Collie. Coming from Division II school will be a challenge for this 6’3″ 200 lb wideout. He will need to adjust to the speed and the physicality of the NFL. I believe he is a strong candidate for the practice team unless he has a dynamic training camp. And, the final spot on the 53 person roster is Greg Childs. If he can return to health and stay injury free he will be a force. He is a down-field threat with the size, speed, strength combination that makes teams cringe with fear. The Vikings in order to evaluate the progress of Burton or the ability of Thielen could put Childs on the PUP at the start of the season to allow him time to heal completely. They could keep Burton on the roster and put Thielen on the practice squad and that would maximize the WR corps. However, the best case scenario is a WR unit of Greg Jennings, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Cordarelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson. If everybody plays up to their potential consistently this would be the best WR corps in the NFL, Indefensible. Now all we need is Ponder to get them the ball and its Super Bowl bound!

    • Tommy Yarbrough

      @3kolu…Jennings, Simpson, Wright, and Kyle Rudolph will start, and there will be some instances where Carlson will alternate with Rudolph, and some packages with Webb involved. Childs most likely won’t play all year, if ever again. Stephen Burton might make the practice squad, and basically be a non-factor unless there is an emergency situation. Cordarrelle Patterson is going to be too busy returning punts and/or kickoffs to play a starting WR. Jennings and coaches mostly will mentor Patterson, and refine his skills (route running, speed of the game, absorbing contact, etc.) He MIGHT get the opportunity to play a little WR, but not much.
      Ponder HAS GOT TO BE BETTER this season, or, with the BRUTAL schedule the Vikings have, they will be toast. I really hate to say it, ’cause I have bled purple for over 30 years.
      Here’s the way I see it. Our pass rush has got to be bad-ass, ALL of the linebacking corps has to play PROFESSIONAL football, and I vehemently emphasize that point. Our secondary has to do a 180 from the way they defensed the aerial attacks of their opponents. I believe they were 31st against the pass. We’ll, that just ain’t gonna cut it, fans.
      Lastly, let me just say this… Christian Ponder, make the passing game work, (another vehemently emphasized point), and you gotta feed the beast. Make all that happen… THEN you’re Super Bowl bound!! SKOL VIKINGS!!!

      • 3kolu

        @Tommy Yarbrough thanks for your educated feedback, if the season were to start today I agree that it would be Jennings, Simpson, Wright in the slot and Rudolph in a conventional WR set. I don’t believe that Stephen Burton is eligible for the practice squad and if he doesn’t take the next step he’s gone. Carlson needs to build that chemistry with Ponder and I hope he can at least double or triple his production from last year. After restructuring his contract and the acquisition of Desmond Bishop we are tied to the hip with Carlson. I’m also looking for more production in the passing game from Ellison and Felton. I’m counting on Ponder’s upward trend and if he can be consistent the chemistry between our run game will complement rather than be reliant on the Beast. Our WR corps is definitely better than last year, and I believe Spielman and company have put Ponder in a position to succeed. As far as the pass rush goes, with the pieces in place we should continue the trend of getting to an early so we can pin our ears back and bring the thunder. I’m confident that Allen will be healthy and productive. Robison will become a double-digit sack master, Sharif Floyd is going to come in on passing situations and wreak havoc, but it will be Everson Griffen who tears it up. I’m hoping for him to nearly double last years numbers while also being a force in the run game. I love the acquisition of Rhodes in the secondary moving Robinson to the inside and the addition of Bishop gives us depth on the LB corp. Ponder has to next step or we’re heading for mediocrity. We don’t need a perfect storm, we just have to get better every day and it’s boom, boom, boom Super bowl bound!!! SKOL VIKINGS!!!

  • Anthony DuLac

    Honestly, even including Childs in this list seems unreasonable. Maybe for next year but he’s not going to be the same and even if he does heal up fully, it seems extremely likely (based on his history) that he’s going to have problems again.
    We all wish him well but we also should just be realistic about it.
    Our top guys should be:
    1. Jennings
    2. Patterson (and I’m tired of hearing “Durr…he has a LONG way to go.” Give us all a break. If you have the talent it’s not impossible to become very productive right away – they said the same crap about Moss and look what he did right away.”)
    3. Wright
    4. Simpson (he has the potential but should be in 4th ranked spot out of these top 4 since he’s not tapped into it yet and maybe never will)
    5. Joe Webb (about time the Vikings FINALLY figured out that he’s best used as a receiver. That’s been a no-brainer since he was drafted.)
    6. Adam Thielen (could slip into one of the 4 or 5 spots)
    7. Burton (Yawn. I don’t think he’s terribly exciting or worth it.)
    And the rest.
    There you go.