Saturday, January 31, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "jarius wright"

jarius wright

At 6′ 4″ and 220 pounds, Joe Webb is an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier than first round rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.  In fact, outside of long shots Rodney Smith and Chris Summers, Webb is the biggest wideout on the roster.  Both Webb and Patterson are considered raw, each potentially having the “project” label applied to them at Winter Park, and both could be competing for the same reps heading into 2013.

After failing miserably to get the Vikings a playoff victory last season, the Vikings have moved Webb to wideout, but the depth chart is suddenly very crowded.  Greg Jennings, when healthy, is sure to occupy a starters position considering his talent, experience, and the investment made to put him in purple.  Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright both have more experience than the young pair and seem to be locks to eat up roster spots heading into this season.  Stephen Burton is someone the Vikings haven’t given up on yet and Greg Childs could throw a wrinkle into things if he is deemed healthy enough to contribute in the preseason.

As of today, the Vikings have 12 wideouts on the roster, and it is safe to say that total will be cut in half by the time the regular season rolls around.  Jennings, Simpson, Wright, and Patterson will surely eat up four of those spots leaving Webb to compete for one or two of the possible spots that would remain.

Last season, when Webb was made to be the backup quarterback only, reports surfaced from beat writers that he was having trouble catching the ball and running routes in practice.  According to multiple reports from this week’s sessions that were open to the media, however, Webb displayed excellent hands and was consistently snatching the ball with the proper away-from-the-body technique.  According to Kevin Seifert, he even was helping rookies learn where they were supposed to line up, suggesting he has a solid grasp of the playbook at this point.

“He has very good hands. He knows the offense very well. He’s actually helping some of the young guys in where to line up at,” Leslie Frazier said of Webb. “Knowing how hard he works and knowing how much he wants to succeed as a receiver, he’ll have a very good chance of getting that done.”

Webb recently talked about how often he has had to change positions throughout his football career, including in high school and college, but he isn’t looking for any sort of sympathy.

“I just like football. I have a passion for the game. I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid. It’s a blessing to be out here on the field. Some guys graduate from college and don’t get a chance to come out here on an NFL field,” Webb said. “I’m just happy for the moment and just trying to take advantage of it.”

Patterson has already laid claim to one of the areas where Webb could potentially help the Vikings, as he has been named the go-to kick returner, and the nature of the NFL business means Patterson is likely to enjoy more chances to succeed at wideout than Webb because of where they were drafted.  Webb and Patterson, and Jarius Wright too for that matter, are essentially competing for the same reps within the offense.

Each possesses similar skills in the open field to Percy Harvin, and could be used the same way Harvin was on manufactured touches like bubble screens, but having three guys to fill this role would seem a little excessive despite the loss of Harvin to Seattle.  Webb is going to have to establish himself in some other fashion, perhaps as a redzone threat where he capitalizes on his height, in order to earn one of the few remaining spots on the depth chart.

Back in January, I suggested that Webb had value to the Vikings as a practice team quarterback capable of emulating any of the many mobile quarterbacks on their 2013 schedule, but using him in this fashion could also prevent him from focusing on being a polished receiver.  I still think Webb is an excellent option to run the practice team, and get the Vikings defense used to chasing down the likes of RGIII and Russell Wilson, but I am now less convinced that this will be enough reason to keep him on the roster.

The Vikings coaching staff, mainly receivers coach George Stewart, must really devote the time needed to find out just what they have in Webb.  It seems fair to say that we know he isn’t an NFL quarterback, so this preseason they need to give him all possible reasons to succeed as a wideout, or else it might be time to cut ties with one of the most popular players on the roster.

Kevin Williams is notoriously quiet when it comes to talking with the press or getting overly animated about the football business.

On Monday, however, he couldn’t contain his confusion as to why the Vikings would trade one of their best young playmakers.

You’re like, ‘What’s going on? We’re going backwards at this point in (my) career,’ ” Williams said to the Pioneer Press. “Last year, we counted on a lot of young guys and played well, but to get rid of one of your top offensive players, I don’t even know who we have at receiver. Jarius Wright is the only guy we’ve got. Hopefully we have a plan in place and it works out for us.”

Williams went on to talk about Harvin as a competitive teammate but gave no indication, as seems to be a trend with Vikings players, that he ever crossed any sort of line in the form of a tantrum.

“Nobody had any problems with Percy,” Williams continued.  “He went about his business, did his work. Sometimes, his passion for what he did on the football field got taken out of context. He was real passionate about what he did. That’s good for ballplayers.”

Williams also said that he has not been approached about a change to his contract status, he is under contract for $7.5 million annually for 2013 and 2014, and could potentially see his long term replacement drafted with the first round pick gained from Seattle in the Harvin trade.  Once that replacement is in hand the Vikings may then want to talk about restructuring his contract, or else that rookie might end up replacing him sooner rather than later.

One month ago today the Vikings signed a CFL cornerback and they haven’t made a single roster move since.

Monday, however, the team predictably started the retooling process with their receiver group by cutting veteran Michael Jenkins, according to Adam Schefter.  Jenkins, 30, played two seasons with the Vikings where he accounted for 78 catches, 915 yards, and five scores.

A $2.425 million roster bonus was due to Jenkins this month so the Vikings were forced to decide between cutting him or investing heavily in an aging receiver that has never topped 800 yards in a season.  The decision to part ways with Jenkins provides the Vikings with a cap savings of $3.25 million, putting them at about $17.5 million in space, so it is obvious why they made the decision they did.

The Vikings receiver group was suspect even before Jenkins was cut, but now they are left with a group with more question marks than a suit worn by a Jim Carrey character.  Percy Harvin seems troubled, a Greg Childs return from injury would be unprecedented, and Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are pending free agents.  If Harvin’s circumstances don’t have him on the field opening weekend, that leaves Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton as the team’s only receivers with notable NFL experience on the roster, and that isn’t saying much.

This is just the latest sign in a long row of them that Rick Spielman and his staff are gearing up to load the receiver depth chart with new faces in an effort to improve Christian Ponder’s 31st ranked passing offense.

If the team finds themselves in a bind down the road, and he is still available, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Jenkins back with a reduced price tag.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

The Vikings are about as needy at the receiver position as any team in the NFL.  That is why, at least on the surface, it might seem odd that they are very rarely being linked to one of this Draft class’s most dynamic pass catchers Tavon Austin.

The biggest reasons Austin is being overlooked by Vikings observers is his small frame that is likely going to prevent him from ever being a true #1 wide out in the NFL.  At 5′ 8″ and 174 pounds, Austin is built for the slot and flanker position, which the Vikings already have nailed down Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright.

Austin, along with quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Stedman Bailey, put on quite the show during his time at West Virginia.  In 2012, his senior season, Austin had the best season of his career.  He had 114 catches for 1,289 yards with 12 touchdowns, while also gaining 643 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

I am not big on using “player comparisons” as a way of evaluating rookie prospects, as it sometimes creates a false sense of expectation, but it is hard not to describe Austin’s skill set without pointing to Harvin’s production since entering the league.  He is incredibly fast, agile, and quick.  He turns on a dime and plays bigger than he is when contact is made, and seldom seems to miss an opportunity to make a play.  Like Harvin, he is plenty capable of playing as a scat back and return man, with the versatility to move all around the field and keep defenses on their toes.

At the same time, Austin will be knocked for the same things Harvin was dinged on coming out of Florida (minus the character worries, though) such as his small size and durability concerns.  Other than that, however, there is very little to worry about when evaluating him.

I will admit that the Vikings aren’t the most likely landing spot for Austin, even though #23 seems about right for him to come off the board, but the guy has such incredible talent that I would be surprised if there was an NFL team that has completely dismissed the idea of drafting him at some point.  On one hand it might seem like there is no spot for him on the Vikings, but on the other hand it is hard to watch his tape and not find yourself assuming he would be a playmaker in any offense.

Where things could get really interesting is if the Vikings do end up swinging a pre-Draft trade that ships Harvin out of town, like some have speculated will happen, because drafting a guy like Austin would suddenly make a whole lot more sense.  After all, he is an awful lot like Harvin, except without the headaches… or the migraines.

 

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It took about a whole two, maybe three, hours before the disappointment from getting our butts handed to us via the Green Bay Packers vanished and the excitement for the offseason completely consumed me. Free agents? The draft?! Possible trades? Veterans leaving? New talent?

I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as bummed about the loss as the next hardcore Vikings fan (well, maybe not as much as this guy…) but the postseason letdown didn’t feel as bad this time. Maybe it was because deep down I knew once it was announced Christian Ponder wouldn’t be starting that we would lose the game and then the next three to four hours was just a realization of that fact. Maybe it’s because nothing could have happened in the playoffs that would take away from what an amazing season 2012 was. (And, folks, it was an amazing football season.) Who knows, really.

What I do know is that I was, and am, at peace with what the Vikings did this year and what I think they’ll do in the near future.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. There’s a ton to look forward to this offseason and some great stories to look out for.

Here are five of the biggest stories headed into the offseason. Stories that we will be covering in [exhausting] detail here at Vikings Territory, I’m sure. Of course, there will always be a few (maybe more) developments that catch us all by surprise. You can be sure we’ll have those, too.

(Note: These do not include general things like “the draft” or “free agency.” It’s a given those will be huge. I tried to think of specific storylines that will provide intrigue, mystery and excitement.)

5. The New Stadium

I almost didn’t include the stadium on the list because it seems that, now that we’ve got our stadium, it’s more of a “I don’t care how it happens, just get it here” type thing. But, after Adam mentioned it to me when I queried the inner-workings of his very knowledgeable Vikings mind, I started to see why it could become something we talk about frequently during the offseason.

It shouldn’t be long until we start seeing a real design for this thing.  And that will be pretty dang cool. We’ll finally get to see what this thing will look like. What features it will have. Does it have a retractable roof? Seat warmers? Does it have a mammoth monitor floating eerily above the ant-sized players a hundred or so feet below? Who knows.

It will be something tangible at that point. Something we can look at and say, “Okay. So that’s going to be where I take my children to watch my Minnesota Vikings a few years from now.” (Maybe more if you’re me).

It’s been an idea up until this point. A finalized design that we can see is a big step to it becoming a real, real reality. (A real one.)

4. Backup Quarterback Backup Plan

Christian Ponder’s late season surge (and potentially even his absence from the playoff game at Lambeau) solidified his role as the Vikings starter at quarterback next season. Head coach Leslie Frazier has even already made it public. That’s all good and fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings still need to figure some things out at the quarterback position during the offseason.

I’m not going to torch Joe Webb too much because I honestly feel like he’s better than what he showed Saturday in Green Bay. The guy was thrown into an incredibly difficult situation under an offensive coordinator who remained steadfast in his stubborn ways and refused to adjust his game plan to increase the likelihood of success for Webb. Nevertheless, I don’t think Joe Webb is somebody who can really threaten Ponder for the starting position and light a fire under his butt, so to speak.

I think Ponder is going to be a good quarterback with a little more development. I take a lot of heat for that position but I’ve held it since he was drafted and I still hold it today. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not a sure thing. He is not a sure thing. And the Vikings need to have a Plan B just in case it doesn’t pan out with #7.

Personally, I’d like Spielman and Co. to do some superb scouting and find a quarterback in the middle rounds who has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the team could just to go the free agent route. (Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely possible the Vikings could not address it at all…)

Nevertheless, I think how the roster shapes up behind Ponder is something to keep an eye on.

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