Without Harvin, receivers struggling

The blame game for the team's passing woes are being directed at Christian Ponder, but Leslie Frazier said the receivers need to do a better job, too. Without Percy Harvin, receptions from the position have been hard to come by and the passing game has fallen to the worst in the league. At look at the lack of production inside.

Against the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings receivers were vilified for dropped passes. Sunday at Lambeau Field it was a lack of separation that didn't allow many passes to even reach the hands (or chests) of the receivers before a defensive back batted them away.

Without Percy Harvin, the state of the team's receiving corps simply isn't strong. Asked if there was a way to quantify the loss of Harvin, head coach Leslie Frazier put it in general terms.

"It's hard to say. I think we're a better team when he's on the football field for obvious reasons," Frazier said. "What he gives us as a kickoff returner, it's hard to replace that. What he does for us as a slot receiver, and hopefully at some point we'll get him back, but I can't say we would have won or lost based on his being there or not being there. I just know we are a better team when he's on the field for us."

Halfway through the season, Harvin was leading the NFL with 60 receptions and coming off a stretch in which he had 90 yards or more receiving in three out of four games.

Despite missing the last three games with his ankle injury, Harvin has five games this season in which he has had more than five catches. The rest of the wide receiver corps? One time – when Michael Jenkins had six catches against the Washington Redskins.

Before an ankle sprain that took him out of action on Nov. 4, Harvin had been targeted 10 times or more in five out of the nine games he played.

Against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings' wide receivers were targeted 13 times combined. They didn't have a catch until just under three minutes to go, when the Packers had a two-possession advantage and backed off their coverage to protect against long gains. Jerome Simpson ended with two catches on seven targets and Jarius Wright had a 13-yard reception on the final play of the game.

Making the receiver struggles all the more frustrating was that the Vikings thought they would be able to take advantage of Green Bay's man coverages.

"It wasn't complicated what they were doing. We just got to do a better job at times of finding ways to win in one-on-one situations. Also, when a guy has created some separation, get the football to him on time," Frazier said. "And we have some occasions where we didn't create separation like we needed to a lot like we thought we were going to into the game."

As the Vikings' passing game fell to dead last in the league after gaining only 119 net yards in the air, Frazier said the receivers have to share in the blame with Ponder.

"They have an important role. They've got to get open. They've got to make the catch when the opportunity comes," Frazier said Monday. "We had a number of dropped balls in that Chicago ballgame and it wasn't all just on Christian to get some completions. It's a combination of protection, along with guys getting open and making catches when they have an opportunity and the quarterback being able to deliver the football. That's part of having a good passing game. So our receivers know that, our quarterback knows it, our offensive line knows it and now we've got to find a way to be more productive in the passing game."

Ponder has produced only four games with 160 yards passing or more in the last six contests. Only once in the last nine games has Ponder had a passer rating above 90.

After the game, Ponder said he "definitely" put the loss on himself. Frazier wasn't quite so willing to put it all on the struggles of his second-year quarterback, although he admitted some of Ponder's faults.

"There was a little hesitation at times. Sometimes you've got to throw the ball when guys come out of their breaks. In our league, it's not very often that guys are going to be wide open," Frazier said. "So when we say throw it on time, on time means when the guy comes out of his break deliver the football. You've got to be able to make that decision whether you can get it in there or not. If you end up holding it a little bit linger, in our league the guys are good enough to close if you do that. So when I say throw the ball on time, that's part of it. When my back foot hits my drop point, get the football out, go through your progressions, do the things that are necessary to be a real good NFL quarterback."

The second of Ponder's two interceptions, at the end of the third quarter, fell into that category. He waited too long for tight end Kyle Rudolph on a crossing route, and by the time Ponder stepped up in the pocket and delivered the ball, safety Morgan Burnett was able to undercut the route enough for an interception in the red zone that sent the Packers on their way to an 18-play, 11-minute drive that essentially salted the game away.

Frazier seems to know his receiver corps needs help after Harvin, but, despite FOX Sports reporting that the Vikings would consider adding a receiver, on Monday Frazier essentially admitted the free-agent pickings are bare.

"We think we have some guys that are capable of creating some separation. We'll continue to schematically, as coaches, try to find ways to scheme coverages if we can and get some guys some open looks," he said. "… It's not like at this time of the season somebody's going to drop a special guy in your lap. It's just not the case."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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I just know we are a better team when he's on the field for us.\" Halfway through the season, Harvin was leading the NFL with 60 receptions and coming off a stretch in which he had 90 yards or more receiving in three out of four games. Despite missing the last three games with his ankle injury, Harvin has five games this season in which he has had more than five catches. The rest of the wide receiver corps? One time – when Michael Jenkins had six catches against the Washington Redskins. Before an ankle sprain that took him out of action on Nov. 4, Harvin had been targeted 10 times or more in five out of the nine games he played. Against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings' wide receivers were targeted 13 times combined. They didn't have a catch until just under three minutes to go, when the Packers had a two-possession advantage and backed off their coverage to protect against long gains. Jerome Simpson ended with two catches on seven targets and Jarius Wright had a 13-yard reception on the final play of the game. Making the receiver struggles all the more frustrating was that the Vikings thought they would be able to take advantage of Green Bay's man coverages. \"It wasn't complicated what they were doing. We just got to do a better job at times of finding ways to win in one-on-one situations. Also, when a guy has created some separation, get the football to him on time,\" Frazier said. \"And we have some occasions where we didn't create separation like we needed to a lot like we thought we were going to into the game.\" As the Vikings' passing game fell to dead last in the league after gaining only 119 net yards in the air, Frazier said the receivers have to share in the blame with Ponder. \"They have an important role. They've got to get open. They've got to make the catch when the opportunity comes,\" Frazier said Monday. \"We had a number of dropped balls in that Chicago ballgame and it wasn't all just on Christian to get some completions. It's a combination of protection, along with guys getting open and making catches when they have an opportunity and the quarterback being able to deliver the football. That's part of having a good passing game. So our receivers know that, our quarterback knows it, our offensive line knows it and now we've got to find a way to be more productive in the passing game.\" Ponder has produced only four games with 160 yards passing or more in the last six contests. Only once in the last nine games has Ponder had a passer rating above 90. After the game, Ponder said he \"definitely\" put the loss on himself. Frazier wasn't quite so willing to put it all on the struggles of his second-year quarterback, although he admitted some of Ponder's faults. \"There was a little hesitation at times. Sometimes you've got to throw the ball when guys come out of their breaks. In our league, it's not very often that guys are going to be wide open,\" Frazier said. \"So when we say throw it on time, on time means when the guy comes out of his break deliver the football. You've got to be able to make that decision whether you can get it in there or not. If you end up holding it a little bit linger, in our league the guys are good enough to close if you do that. So when I say throw the ball on time, that's part of it. When my back foot hits my drop point, get the football out, go through your progressions, do the things that are necessary to be a real good NFL quarterback.\" The second of Ponder's two interceptions, at the end of the third quarter, fell into that category. 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