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jarius wright

 Patrick Reusse of 1500ESPN.com had this same idea in August 2013 when he compared Christian Ponder to other quarterbacks. Well, now it’s my turn to add two cents and lay some tracks down this Ponder path.

Rich  Gannon had a long 17 year career in the NFL as a quarterback largely due to his mobility and toughness. Ponder reminds me a little bit of Gannon in the fact that he can make plays on the run and doesn’t have the world’s greatest arm.

 Gannon didn’t play much during his first three seasons in Minnesota, but he became the Vikings’ starter in his following three seasons. Gannon was a serviceable quarterback for the Vikings, however his stats in his first 42 starts for the Vikings, Redskins and Chiefs combined were nothing more than average at best. In his first nine years in the NFL, Gannon was 21-21 as a starter completing just 56.6% of his pass attempts while throwing for 49 touchdowns and 44 interceptions with a quarterback rate of 73.8.

Like a fine wine that improves with age, Gannon transformed into a very good quarterback at the age of 32. In his last two seasons at Kansas City and his final six years in Oakland he performed at his best. During that time frame, Gannon had a 55-35 record completing 61% of his attempts and throwing 131 touchdowns with 60 interceptions. Gannon won the NFL’s MVP award in 2002 as he guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl and the top rated offense.

Can Christian Ponder develop into a great NFL quarterback too? If he can hang around the league long enough, I think he has enough skill set to be able to pull off a “Gannon like” MVP season at some point in his career. And as for now, it appears the Vikings want to hold onto Ponder for a little while longer. GM Rick Spielman said Friday that he is anxious to see how Ponder looks under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner this off-season. “Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything — him not being here,” Spielman said, via Master Tesfatsion of the Startribune. “Right now we’re looking at quarterbacks, so we would say we don’t have the position solidified. I know Christian does have the physical abilities to do it, but for whatever reason things haven’t come together for him.”

 Norv Turner enjoys watching young players develop. He told a group of reporters at last week’s press conference that it’s one of the reasons why he coaches. When ask about his thoughts on working with Cordarrelle, Norv talked about his experience developing a young Josh Gordon and went on to say, “We got a really good group of young players here, not only Cordarrelle but a number of guys and a pretty good running back. I look at the potential this group has, and you’re anxious to get started and see how far they can go. Cordarrelle has all the physical skills you would like in a player. When I watch tape, one of the things I look for are the things that they already do well, and how they match up with the things we want to do. I think he (Cordarrelle) will fit our offense extremely well.”

 Later in the press conference Norv said, “I look at the roster, and certainly I look at the offensive side of the ball, and I think this is a group that can be very good. I think we can be good real fast.”

Whether we’re talking about route-running, explosiveness or overall play-making ability, this team has enough firepower for Norv to take some positive steps forward in the passing game as well as the running game.

Norv certainly likes a balanced offense with a physical running attack. One goal he said is,  “We would like to get him (Adrian) in space a little bit more and get the field spread a little better for him.”

The key to spreading the field and getting Adrian Peterson and also Cordarrelle Patterson good touches in open space will depend on how effective the Vikings can be when taking shots down the field.

Norv gets excited when he talks about explosive plays, vertical passing and yards per catch. His record speaks for itself as he has coached a number of wide receivers who have finished near the top in yards per catch. That could be good news for Jarius Wright. Jarius emerged last season with the Vikings as a legitimate big play threat by leading the team with a 16.7 yards per catch average. At Arkansas he had three consecutive seasons where he had 40 or more receptions and averaged over 17 yards per catch.

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Last year, when the Vikings thought they had a fourth round steal when the selected Greg Childs, the talented receiver out of Arkansas that slipped in the Draft due to injury concerns.  So far, almost two full seasons into his career, only the concerns have been realized and the talent level remains to be seen.

Childs tore both patellar tendons on August 4th of the team’s 2012 training camp and has been in rehabilitation mode ever since.  He has been a fixture in the locker room and his determination has been the subject of hundreds of Vikings-focused articles ever since he sustained the injury.  Monday marked the NFL deadline for the Vikings to either let Childs practice, put him on injured reserve again, or release him outright.  They decided to let him practice and that is a huge milestone for his comeback campaign.

He practiced for the first time in 15 months on Wednesday.

The Vikings now have three weeks to decide what to do with him next.  A 21-day deadline is now going to be imposed, per NFL rules, and the Vikings will either have to activate him or put him on injured reserve… or release him.  Considering the time invested into their young wide out, it would be surprising if they gave up on him at this point, as they would surely like to get him into training camp next year to see what he can do.

Childs was once thought of as a possible answer for the Vikings at the receiver position, but they were forced to move forward without him, and he will be joining a crowded group with decent talent.  Since his injury the Vikings have invested heavily into first rounder Cordarrelle Patterson, paid handsomely to obtain Greg Jennings, and converted Joe Webb back to receiver.  They have also allowed youngsters Rodney Smith and Adam Theilen to hang around and Jerome Simpson is the team’s leading pass catcher.

Still, Childs is determined to make it back to the field of play, and when he does I doubt he’ll be any less determined when it comes to making an impact.

Advancing a 10-6 wildcard playoff team from a year ago into a Super Bowl contender this season will take a few blue collar players willing to step up to a larger and more productive roll in 2013. Here are three early camp standout performers that have their stock trending upward after experiencing limited rolls in 2012.

Jarius Wright was inactive for the first 9 games last season but preformed well in the final 7 starts filling in for the injured Percy Harvin. The 4th round pick from Arkansas has carried over that late season momentum to OTAs and training camp this year. Wright will get most of his playing time and production in the slot but has the ability to play on the outside if needed. His confidence and his comfort within the offensive system entering his second year are on full display early on. Wright will be a top target for Ponder whether he is throwing across the middle, deep down field or just looking for a short dump off. Wright is a do it all kind of player with great hands and speed. As a backup punt returner, he might even be called upon to catch a punt once in a while. Wright’s increased roll in the offense this year and his increased production will be a key component to a successful season.

John Carlson sat out all of 2011 with the Seahawks, and was not as effective as many had hoped in his first season with the Viking in 2012. An injury last year in camp limited his ability to develop timing and chemistry with teammates which ultimately set him back. After a healthy off-season, one which also included a contract restructure, Carlson’s play is now standing out in camp. The 12,000 fans that packed Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato for Friday’s annual night practice saw Carlson find the end zone 3 times. Carlson is a big redzone target at 6-foot-5 251 pounds which Ponder will look to connect with him more often this year. Carlson only caught 8 passes last season for the Vikings. Nonetheless, he is healthy and poised this year to regain the production he had in his first 3 NFL seasons when he collected 137 receptions.

Bobby Felder is an under the radar guy to most Viking fans, but he is quietly moving up the depth chart in camp. After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL draft, the cornerback from Nichols State impressed the coaches enough last preseason to land a spot on the practice squad. The Vikings have done a good job in the past of actively promoting from within the practice squad. After a year of hard work on the scout team, Felder is ready to step up to the 53 man roster. Felder has moved ahead of Marcus Sherels as the #3 nickel corner on the latest Vikings’ depth chart. The nickel spot is not the only position he is try to win. Felder has taken camp reps as a gunner on the punt unit (1st and 2nd team). He has taken 2nd team reps on the kick off team, kick return team, and also on the punt return teams.

Cristy Brusoe in her camp notes is impressed with Bobby Felder as a punt returner. She says “he has shifty feet and quickness that isn’t duplicated by anyone other than maybe AP.” Priefer may not be giving Felder many reps as a punt returner just yet, but Frazier might want to take a look him in a preseason game. In a recent interview with Vikings.com, Frazier talked about the punt returner competition behind Marcus Sherels. “We have a few different guys. We want to take a look at Stephen Burton a little bit. We’re probably going to give Bobby Felder a chance. We’re debating about whether or not we want (Cordarrelle) Patterson to have a chance to do it as well. Jarius Wright may get an opportunity. So we have a few candidates to potentially take a look at and we’ll just see how it goes as the games unfold.”

I can’t really say that the stock on Christian Ponder, Erin Henderson or Josh Robinson is up or down right now. So, unfortunately they didn’t make the list. With that said, the success of the Vikings will greatly depend on these players’ ability to improve upon their production from a season ago. I am not worried; odds are good they will all show signs of progress in 2013. I am optimistic that their stock will slowly travel in a more northerly direction as the regular season rolls on. Come playoff time, don’t be surprised if they are all enjoying “Rock Star” status in the state of Minnesota.

Spoiler Alert:  Barring injury (or murder charges), Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson are guaranteed spots on the opening day roster for the Vikings.  Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright may not have the same amount of security as those two guys, as the Vikings have invested considerably less in them, but they also seem close to “locks” for opening day.

That leaves a whopping eight wide outs vying for a remaining one, or maybe two, roster spots.  Watching the depth chart at receiver shake out as training camp progresses should be quite entertaining.  Whether it is evaluating Joe Webb’s chances in his new(ish) position, tracking Greg Childs and his progress in his comeback attempt, following local boy Adam Thielen, or simply waiting for someone to unexpectedly emerge, the battle for those last spots will provide plenty of intrigue.

So, I want to hear from you.  How will this all end up?  The poll below allows for you to select as many receivers as you like.  Check the box if you think the player will survive through the final roster cuts.  Keep in mind, however, the Vikings are likely only going to keep five or six wide outs.

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