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Commentary | One of the biggest concerns for the Minnesota Vikings as the 2013 season approaches is their passing game. Christian Ponder will likely be entering his third season in the league on a shorter leash than in past years. One of the largest factors in Ponder’s future will be the play of his wide receivers. The Vikings have made many changes at the receiver position in the hopes of igniting a stagnant passing game. Here is a preview of what you can expect to see from the Vikings’ receivers in 2013.
At 5’11” and 198 pounds Jennings isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but he is likely to be Ponder’s big-play receiver. After trading Percy Harvin in the offseason, the Vikings quickly looked to Jennings in free agency to replace Harvin’s production. Jennings is the one guy assured of starting spot at wide receiver heading into training camp. After playing in all 16 games from 2008 to 2010 with the Green Bay Packers, Jennings has been an injury concern the last couple years as he missed 3 games in 2011 and only saw the field for 8 games last season with the Packers. With 425 career receptions, totaling over 6500 yards and 53 touchdowns, the Vikings are hoping Jennings can return to his pre-injury form when he averaged 75 receptions, 1223 yards and 8 touchdowns from 2008 to 2010.
The Vikings’ top offensive pick and third first rounder of the 2013 draft, Patterson is expected to have an immediate impact on the team. One of the most athletically gifted receivers to come out of the draft in years, Patterson has been compared to Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos, as well as Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Although I think it’s a bit early to be comparing a rookie who has yet to take a snap in the NFL to Megatron, the physical comparison is quite interesting. Patterson made an impact with Tennessee in 2012 setting a team record with 1858 all-purpose yards. He caught 46 passes for 778 yards, finding the endzone 5 times. In addition he had 25 carries for 208 yards and 3 more touchdowns. He also had a record setting year as a return specialist for the Volunteers setting an SEC record for combined kick and punt return average at 27.6 yards per return, also scoring once on each.
One knock on Cordarrelle has been his route running, which some NFL executives believed led to his increase in rushing attempts and reverses later in the season. If he can improve on his route running and take advantage of his unique athletic ability, Patterson may not only start for the Vikings, but could have the biggest impact of any rookie receiver since Randy Moss.
Re-signed in the offseason to compete for a starting spot, Simpson is nearly a lock to make the roster. At 6’2″ and 190 pounds, Simpson has the size and athletic ability to start in the NFL. After a breakout year in 2011 with the Cincinnati Bengals, in which he had 50 receptions for 725 yards and scored 4 touchdowns, the Vikings were expecting big things from Simpson. Unfortunately, after a four game suspension to start the 2012 season, Simpson never was able to find his stride for the Vikes. He had a disappointing season with just 26 receptions and 276 yards, while struggling with drops and an inability to find the endzone. The Vikings are hoping Simpson can make an impact over the course of a full season in 2013.
When Vikings’ fans hear the name Joe Webb, they can’t help but think about his awful showing at quarterback against division rival Green Bay in the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Fortunately for Vikings’ fans the quarterback experiment is over for Joe Webb. Coach Leslie Frazier has said he’d like to get Webb more involved at wide receiver, mix him up with Adrian Peterson in the backfield, and even have Webb return some punts. According to 1500espn.com Webb has in fact been working on punt returning in the teams recent OTAs, although Webb is not believed to be in Frazier’s punt return plans come regular season. Stranger things have happened, if he shows ability, who knows?
This isn’t Webb’s first experience as a wideout, in 2007 with Alabama-Birmingham he caught 30 passes for 459 yards and 3 touchdowns. There’s always the possibility that Webb could make the roster as an emergency quarterback and be used much in the same way the Pittsburgh Steelers used Kordell Stewart, perhaps even seeing more action than Stewart. The 6’4″ Webb could prove to be a match-up nightmare for apposing defenses. As Vikings’ fans we can only hope the latest experiment with Joe Webb goes better than the first.
One of the few bright spots in the Vikings’ passing game last year; Wright appeared in seven games, starting once. He had 22 receptions for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns, while helping fill in for the injured Percy Harvin. Wright should have an excellent shot at making the team out of camp this year. In his senior year at Arkansas, Jarius snagged 66 balls for 1117 yards, with 12 touchdowns. In limited action with the Vikings he showed signs of what made him such a threat with Arkansas, but he may not be ready to make an impact on a regular basis
Drafted in the 4 th round of the 2012 draft, Childs looked to be a play-maker that could help the Vikings immediately. In four years with Arkansas, Childs caught 133 balls for 2066 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Childs tore his patella tendon in both knees, marking the second time he had tore the tendon in his right knee. It is yet unknown when he will return, or if he’ll still be the explosive weapon that Minnesota believed they drafted. Childs recently told Vikings.com “We’re just going to see how I feel when that time comes,” Childs said. “I’m not going to put a time limit on it, I’m not going to put a date and say I’m going to be back mid-season or the first of the season. We’re just going to see how things progress until then.” A successful return could really shake-up the receiver corps.
After failing to make an impact when given the chance over the last two seasons. Burton will likely find himself on the outside looking in when the final roster cuts are made. Although talented, Burton has only manage seven receptions, while seeing the field in parts of fifteen games over the last two seasons. The emergence of Wright, as well as the position change for Webb and Patterson’s drafting will make it extremely difficult for Burton to make the active roster.
With an impressive frame standing 6’5″ and weighing in at 215 pounds, I’d love to see Summers earn a spot on the team. In 2010 while with Liberty, Summers had 76 receptions, gaining 1081 yards and reaching the endzone 15 times. He received Third Team AP All-American honors.
With all the new talent at receiver the Vikings should look to spread the field and go deep, opening the door for Peterson to have another MVP season.The big question is whether it’ll be Ponder or Matt Cassel throwing the ball. Although the roster isn’t final yet, the Vikings are nearly assured of having a much-improved passing game.
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This article originally published by the same author on Yahoo.com