Notebook: Why Simpson's catch is notable

Jerome Simpson wasn't the most reliable receiver last year, but his catch in Wednesday's practice showed his impressive athleticism. Simpson has what the Vikings need, but his performance last year compared to Vikings receivers is an interesting and surprising dichotomy. Plus, another receiver showing well, one that is sitting out and other notes from Wednesday.

Nearly everyone in attendance at Wednesday's Minnesota Vikings practice was impressed with Jerome Simpson's leaping 40-yard catch over cornerback Chris Cook.

Cook was in good position and appeared to be ready for an interception or deflected pass. Instead, Simpson was the player that came down with the ball and received an immediate show of appreciation from teammates.

Simpson was asked about the catch after practice and the team's website was eager to get video of the catch uploaded.

So what's the big deal with a single catch in an early offseason practice?

Actually, it's a big deal on two fronts. First, the Vikings have been lacking a legitimate deep-threat receiver since Sidney Rice took his talents and $18.5 million in guarantees to Seattle in free agency before the start of the 2011 season.

Devin Aromashodu was serviceable, although somewhat inconsistent, in that capacity last year. Bernard Berrian, whom coaches praised early in training camp, proved to be the same uninspired speed receiver he had been since 2009. In essence, the Vikings had no other receiver to match the speed and explosiveness of Percy Harvin.

Simpson came to Minnesota after signing a one-year contract in March. He had the speed (14.5-yard average per catch) and athleticism (witness his highlight-film flip into the end zone last year). But Simpson also came with one big question mark – his hands.

Last year, Simpson was ninth in the league with eight dropped passes, according to Stats LLC. Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White led the NFL with 14 drops in 2011, but the top-10 list also included such notables as Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe (12), Miami's Brandon Marshall (12) Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (11) and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson (9).

In his first three years in the NFL, Simpson wasn't credited with any dropped passes while he had 21 receptions.

Interestingly, the Vikings were tied with the Oakland Raiders as the teams with the fewest dropped passes (20) in 2011. Aromashodu led the team with four while Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe had three apiece, according to Stats LLC.

ANOTHER RECEIVER TO WATCH

Simpson has easily been the most impressive receiver in the two practices open to reporters, but second-year player Stephen Burton has been active, too.

Burton – the second-year player who was on the practice squad for the first seven weeks of his rookie season, played in three of the next six games and then spent the final three weeks of the season on injured reserve – has received some time with the first-team offense.

"The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ballgames a year ago when I know he wasn't expecting that early on and neither were we. That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's grown so much from having the chance to dress and get in a ballgame and his understanding of the offense is so much further ahead as well. You can see the confidence and that's a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player. He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that's the one thing that you can see is coming through now."

On the other hand, rookie receiver Greg Childs, who, like Simpson, could offer a big-bodied deep threat, has been sidelined since rookie minicamp in May with a strained calf muscle.

"I know he's getting treatment and doing everything he can to get back on the field and begin to learn the offense, not just from a mental standpoint, but the physical part of what we do. He's missing that, but he'll get caught up. He's a smart kid and it's unfortunate he can't get some of these reps now, but he'll get caught up," Frazier said.

NOTES

  • The Vikings hosted several Special Olympians in a Punt, Pass and Kick contest following Wednesday's practice, with most of the Vikings' players taking time to help out the athletes and sign autographs.

  • Starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley appeared to suffer a minor injury after knocking down a pass intended for Emmanuel Arceneaux during full-team drills. Brinkley didn't practice after that. Tyrone McKenzie took over his duties for the rest of practice.

  • Simpson's acrobatic 40-yard catch wasn't the only time he showed impressive athleticism Wednesday. He was the most consistent receiver during individual drills and made several catches while fully extending for off-target passes.

  • Aromashodu struggled in individual drills, dropping two passes that were easily catchable.

  • Despite being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol over the weekend, Jerome Felton was the fullback with the first-team offense.

  • The Vikings spent part of the practice working on their nickel defensive schemes. In that scenario, Antoine Winfield was covering the slot receiver, Chris Carr and Chris Cook were the outside cornerbacks and Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were the first-team linebackers (Chad Greenway wasn't at practice because of a family matter).

  • Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford continue to be the starting safeties, but first-round pick Harrison Smith is expected to become a starter this year.

  • Kevin Williams got the full-team drills started by knocking down a pass from Ponder at the line of scrimmage.

  • Receiver Kerry Taylor ran routes during individual and offensive drills, but he didn't participate in full-team work or catch any passes because of a right hand that was taped up.


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



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Nearly everyone in attendance at Wednesday's Minnesota Vikings practice was impressed with Jerome Simpson's leaping 40-yard catch over cornerback Chris Cook. Cook was in good position and appeared to be ready for an interception or deflected pass. Instead, Simpson was the player that came down with the ball and received an immediate show of appreciation from teammates. Simpson was asked about the catch after practice and the team's website was eager to get video of the catch uploaded. So what's the big deal with a single catch in an early offseason practice? Actually, it's a big deal on two fronts. First, the Vikings have been lacking a legitimate deep-threat receiver since Sidney Rice took his talents and $18.5 million in guarantees to Seattle in free agency before the start of the 2011 season. Devin Aromashodu was serviceable, although somewhat inconsistent, in that capacity last year. Bernard Berrian, whom coaches praised early in training camp, proved to be the same uninspired speed receiver he had been since 2009. In essence, the Vikings had no other receiver to match the speed and explosiveness of Percy Harvin. Simpson came to Minnesota after signing a one-year contract in March. He had the speed (14.5-yard average per catch) and athleticism (witness his highlight-film flip into the end zone last year). But Simpson also came with one big question mark – his hands. Last year, Simpson was ninth in the league with eight dropped passes, according to Stats LLC. Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White led the NFL with 14 drops in 2011, but the top-10 list also included such notables as Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe (12), Miami's Brandon Marshall (12) Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (11) and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson (9). In his first three years in the NFL, Simpson wasn't credited with any dropped passes while he had 21 receptions. Interestingly, the Vikings were tied with the Oakland Raiders as the teams with the fewest dropped passes (20) in 2011. Aromashodu led the team with four while Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe had three apiece, according to Stats LLC. Simpson has easily been the most impressive receiver in the two practices open to reporters, but second-year player Stephen Burton has been active, too. Burton – the second-year player who was on the practice squad for the first seven weeks of his rookie season, played in three of the next six games and then spent the final three weeks of the season on injured reserve – has received some time with the first-team offense. \"The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ballgames a year ago when I know he wasn't expecting that early on and neither were we. That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp,\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. \"He's grown so much from having the chance to dress and get in a ballgame and his understanding of the offense is so much further ahead as well. You can see the confidence and that's a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player. He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that's the one thing that you can see is coming through now.\" On the other hand, rookie receiver Greg Childs, who, like Simpson, could offer a big-bodied deep threat, has been sidelined since rookie minicamp in May with a strained calf muscle. \"I know he's getting treatment and doing everything he can to get back on the field and begin to learn the offense, not just from a mental standpoint, but the physical part of what we do. He's missing that, but he'll get caught up. He's a smart kid and it's unfortunate he can't get some of these reps now, but he'll get caught up,\" Frazier said.
  • The Vikings hosted several Special Olympians in a Punt, Pass and Kick contest following Wednesday's practice, with most of the Vikings' players taking time to help out the athletes and sign autographs.
  • Starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley appeared to suffer a minor injury after knocking down a pass intended for Emmanuel Arceneaux during full-team drills. Brinkley didn't practice after that. Tyrone McKenzie took over his duties for the rest of practice.
  • Simpson's acrobatic 40-yard catch wasn't the only time he showed impressive athleticism Wednesday. He was the most consistent receiver during individual drills and made several catches while fully extending for off-target passes.
  • Aromashodu struggled in individual drills, dropping two passes that were easily catchable.
  • Despite being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol over the weekend, Jerome Felton was the fullback with the first-team offense.
  • The Vikings spent part of the practice working on their nickel defensive schemes. In that scenario, Antoine Winfield was covering the slot receiver, Chris Carr and Chris Cook were the outside cornerbacks and Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were the first-team linebackers (Chad Greenway wasn't at practice because of a family matter).
  • Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford continue to be the starting safeties, but first-round pick Harrison Smith is expected to become a starter this year.
  • Kevin Williams got the full-team drills started by knocking down a pass from Ponder at the line of scrimmage.
  • Receiver Kerry Taylor ran routes during individual and offensive drills, but he didn't participate in full-team work or catch any passes because of a right hand that was taped up.
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