Josh Freeman's exposure to his new receiving corps has been limited, but the Minnesota Vikings' top two receivers so far this year – Jerome Simpson and tight end Kyle Rudolph – both pointed out one thing impressive about Freeman.
"It's good that he's a taller quarterback, too, because you can see the ball coming out of his hand over our offense and the defensive linemen," Simpson said. "So it seems like he's going to be a good guy to work for, and we just want to make plays for him so it can be an easy transition for him coming in."
Freeman is 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds. The team's starter last week, Matt Cassel, is 6-foot-4, 228 pounds. And the starter at the beginning of the season, Christian Ponder, is 6-foot-2, 229 pounds.
"If you're sizing him up, he's a pretty big dude," said Rudolph, who also goes 6-foot-6. "I mentioned before, since he got here last Tuesday, he's done everything he can being upstairs with the coaches to get a hold of this offense."
One of the likely reasons Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was interested in Freeman when he scouted him coming out of Kansas State in 2009 and still liked him when he became available earlier this month was because of his deep passing ability.
According to Pro Football Focus, Freeman had the second-most yards last year (1,178) on passes targeting a receiver 20 yards or more down the field, completing 31 of 89 of those targets for five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was fourth in the league with 15.9 percent of his dropbacks targeting receivers with the deep ball.
That certainly was a forte of Christian Ponder last year.
Last week, Matt Cassel completed only one of his three attempts 20 yards down the field, with one of them being intercepted. Cassel excelled in the short passing game, however, completing 26 of his 28 passes under 10 yards for 156 yards.
For the season, Cassel completed 3 of 7 deep passes for 88 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Christian Ponder completed 6 of 15 for 197 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Simpson leads the Vikings with nine targets 20 yards or more downfield this season, according to Pro Football Focus, but he has only three receptions on those passes. It's been inaccuracy causing the problem, as Simpson has no drops in those situations.
Greg Jennings has actually been more efficient. He has been targeted deep five times, catching three of those for 65 yards.
"Every play should be open. But, yeah, we do need to get the deep balls in, too, just to help back that defense up so we can help Adrian (Peterson) out and counterbalance this offense," Simpson said.
Simpson said the receivers need to help out Freeman as he tries to get acclimated to a new system.
"First we've got to kind of just be on the film and seeing what we do. We've just got to be more precise, you know, because he hasn't really seen us that much," said the Vikings' leading receiver with 23 catches for 372 yards on 39 targets. "But we've just got to be in the right position and just help him out as much as possible."
They'll need to help out the tall quarterback in short order. He has only four practices – Wednesday through Saturday – working as the starting quarterback.
But Rudolph, second on the team with 21 catches (for 200 yards), confirmed the assessment of head coach Leslie Frazier that Freeman is doing everything he can to learn the offense in a hurry.
"Josh has been here for a week. He's done everything he can to get himself to a point where he's comfortable in the offense," Rudolph said. "You guys are out there at practice, I'm always out with the quarterbacks during special teams, catching the ball from all of them, so I feel like I've got good chemistry with all three."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Freeman has height, arm strength to help
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