Former Vikings WR Works Out for Team Once Again

Dede Westbrook
Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports.

Wide receiver Dede Westbrook returns to the Vikings for at least a workout. Before the 2021 season, the Vikings signed him, and fans were excited about the news. They expected to finally have a good third receiver on the team. However, it didn’t work as well as people thought.

Westbrook tore his ACL during the 2020 season. He suffered the injury in week 7, on October 26th. Exactly nine months later, he signed his contract in Minnesota. In training camp, Westbrook was a limited participant and didn’t fully recover from his injury yet.

In Week 1 however, Westbrook was active and caught his only target. Overall, he disappointed in his role as a receiver, as he finished the season with 10 catches for 68 yards and no scores. Westbrook was the team’s punt returner and offered some reliability after the disastrous 2020 season in terms of punt returning.

Before his ACL injury, Westbrook was a big part of the Jacksonville Jaguars offense. In his first three career seasons, he caught 253 passes for 1716 yards in combination with punt return duties. His best season came in 2018 when he recorded a PFF grade of 71.3. He had 66 receptions for 717 yards and five touchdowns.

Dede Westbrook
Dec 29, 2019; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook, Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

If he can get back to pre-injury level, he would be a great addition to the offense. If he can’t, he would still play an important role, as the Vikings don’t have a true punt returner on the roster. Additionally, he could be an emergency receiver. He is certainly a talented player. In 2016, he won the Biletnikoff Award, the honor for the most outstanding receiver in college football. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by the Jaguars.

The Vikings currently employ the star receivers, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. K.J. Osborn was the third receiver in 2021. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t draft a wideout until the 6th round of his first draft when he selected Jalen Nailor. 2021 draft pick, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, could have an increased role under coach Kevin O’Connell. He flashed, especially in the final game of the season against the Bears when he had 103 yards and a touchdown.

The Vikings are expected to run much more plays with a third receiver on the field in the new scheme. O’Connell’s Rams had a third receiver in the huddle in 87% of the snaps, while the 2021 Vikings had only a third receiver on the field in 60% of the plays. A significant difference that makes the depth of the receiver room much more important. If Westbrook can make a good impression in his workout, the receiver could return to the Vikings.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a fable for numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things to do. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt