Tools, extra work a cure for Simpson's drops?

Jerome Simpson cracked the NFL's top 10 for dropped passes last year, but his new receivers coach in Minnesota, George Stewart, has been using training tools to improve Simpson's hands and says his dedication to extra work has been impressive.

Last year, the Minnesota Vikings were tied with the Oakland Raider for the fewest dropped passes – 20 – in the NFL. This year, they added a wide receiver that was among the worst in that category.

For the first three years of his career, Jerome Simpson went without being credited for a dropped pass. That changed in a big way last year – his final season with the Cincinnati Bengals – as he ranked ninth in the league with eight dropped passes, according to STATS LLC. But, despite all the statistics, his new position coach in Minnesota, George Stewart, said he isn't concerned with Simpson's 2011 inconsistency.

"No, not at all," Stewart said. "When I watched him on tape before we had a chance to sign him, the guy made plays. I didn't see many drops at all. I know that's a statistic that's out there. Maybe it was a tipped pass, maybe it was something (else). But since he's been here, he's been excellent catching the football."

Simpson is suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. After sitting out the first three games, he is expected to be an integral part of the team's offense.

During organized team activities and minicamp over the last month-plus, Simpson has been working with the first-team offense and been one of the Vikings' most impressive receivers. His highlight-reel, leaping catch over the head of cornerback Chris Cook on about a 40-yard pass from Christian Ponder made all the local sports highlights and he hasn't been a notable dropper of passes in practices.

There may be a reason for that. Stewart said Simpson has been working diligently away from practices on honing his craft, including a training tool the Vikings have been using since the days of Troy Williamson's more public and consistent case of the dropsies.

"We have done a lot of things during the course of the offseason. Nike has a spec vision glasses that they blink. He has worn those things faithfully," Stewart said of Simpson. "We've done a great job with our JUGS machine. Our equipment manager stays out with him and catches JUGS. He is about as detail-oriented of a guy as I've been around.

"He has weighted gloves they use to catch the football because his hands, it makes them quicker. So he's detail-oriented when it comes to catching the football and he's going to be an excellent pass-catcher for us."

Simpson has also been trying to familiarize himself with Ponder as his new quarterback, saying "we're getting there," and a new offense. But Stewart said the Vikings' offense under coordinator Bill Musgrave has "very similar verbiage" to Jay Gruden's offense in Cincinnati. Simpson's learning curve, according to his position coach, "has been outstanding."

The Vikings could use the boost. Whether it was Musgrave's offense last year or Darrell Bevell and Brad Childress' offense in 2010, the Vikings haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice had 1,312 yards off of Brett Favre passes in 2009.

In 2010, Harvin led the team with 868 receiving yards. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had 530 and no other Viking had more than 500 yards receiving.

Last year, Harvin again led the team with 967 receiving yards and no else one else cracked the 500-yard barrier.

Although Simpson and Rice both eclipsed the 6-foot mark, they have very different playing styles and skill sets.

"Two different players. Sidney is a big 6-foot-5, 6-foot-4 wide receiver. Jerome is not as tall (6-2), probably a little more elusive," Stewart said. "Probably faster. But in terms of stretching the field and having a chance athletically to make plays, the thing they can do is go up and get the football. They both catch well."

So far, that has been the case with Simpson in practices and the Vikings hope he doesn't crack the top-10 list for drops again.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Last year, the Minnesota Vikings were tied with the Oakland Raider for the fewest dropped passes – 20 – in the NFL. This year, they added a wide receiver that was among the worst in that category. For the first three years of his career, Jerome Simpson went without being credited for a dropped pass. That changed in a big way last year – his final season with the Cincinnati Bengals – as he ranked ninth in the league with eight dropped passes, according to STATS LLC. But, despite all the statistics, his new position coach in Minnesota, George Stewart, said he isn't concerned with Simpson's 2011 inconsistency. \"No, not at all,\" Stewart said. \"When I watched him on tape before we had a chance to sign him, the guy made plays. I didn't see many drops at all. I know that's a statistic that's out there. Maybe it was a tipped pass, maybe it was something (else). But since he's been here, he's been excellent catching the football.\" Simpson is suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. After sitting out the first three games, he is expected to be an integral part of the team's offense. During organized team activities and minicamp over the last month-plus, Simpson has been working with the first-team offense and been one of the Vikings' most impressive receivers. His highlight-reel, leaping catch over the head of cornerback Chris Cook on about a 40-yard pass from Christian Ponder made all the local sports highlights and he hasn't been a notable dropper of passes in practices. There may be a reason for that. Stewart said Simpson has been working diligently away from practices on honing his craft, including a training tool the Vikings have been using since the days of Troy Williamson's more public and consistent case of the dropsies. \"We have done a lot of things during the course of the offseason. Nike has a spec vision glasses that they blink. He has worn those things faithfully,\" Stewart said of Simpson. \"We've done a great job with our JUGS machine. Our equipment manager stays out with him and catches JUGS. He is about as detail-oriented of a guy as I've been around. \"He has weighted gloves they use to catch the football because his hands, it makes them quicker. So he's detail-oriented when it comes to catching the football and he's going to be an excellent pass-catcher for us.\" Simpson has also been trying to familiarize himself with Ponder as his new quarterback, saying \"we're getting there,\" and a new offense. But Stewart said the Vikings' offense under coordinator Bill Musgrave has \"very similar verbiage\" to Jay Gruden's offense in Cincinnati. Simpson's learning curve, according to his position coach, \"has been outstanding.\" The Vikings could use the boost. Whether it was Musgrave's offense last year or Darrell Bevell and Brad Childress' offense in 2010, the Vikings haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice had 1,312 yards off of Brett Favre passes in 2009. In 2010, Harvin led the team with 868 receiving yards. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had 530 and no other Viking had more than 500 yards receiving. Last year, Harvin again led the team with 967 receiving yards and no else one else cracked the 500-yard barrier. Although Simpson and Rice both eclipsed the 6-foot mark, they have very different playing styles and skill sets. \"Two different players. Sidney is a big 6-foot-5, 6-foot-4 wide receiver. Jerome is not as tall (6-2), probably a little more elusive,\" Stewart said. \"Probably faster. But in terms of stretching the field and having a chance athletically to make plays, the thing they can do is go up and get the football. They both catch well.\" So far, that has been the case with Simpson in practices and the Vikings hope he doesn't crack the top-10 list for drops again. 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