Jennings' production jumps up with Cassel

Three of Greg Jennings' biggest days this year have come with Matt Cassel at quarterback. The numbers show it's too much of a pattern to be a coincidence. We examine the numbers and the reaction from the players.

Greg Jennings' performance Sunday afternoon was further proof that sometimes receivers just have better chemistry with different quarterbacks.

Jennings has started every game this season and has taken easily the most snaps, 70 percent, of any receiver this season. Is it coincidence that his most productive days have been during Matt Cassel's most extensive action at quarterback?

"I don't know. I know a lot of times, we talk a lot. We definitely talk a lot. We kind of see the same things," Jennings said. "He's been in the game for a long time. He's seen a lot of defense and he understands what they're going to throw at him. I think we just share that same mindset when it comes to that. It's one of those things where he kind of just finds the guys. He came in today and he played excellent."

Cassel's has made two starts – against Pittsburgh and Carolina – and played about 43 minutes of Sunday's 23-20 overtime win over the Chicago Bears. Those are the only three games in which Cassel has thrown more than 15 passes.

Jennings' highest yardage total of the season, 92 yards, came on three catches against Pittsburgh. It was also his only two-touchdown game of the season. His highest number of targets, 10, came against Carolina and the following game against the New York Giants when Josh Freeman was quarterback. The most receptions he has this season, seven, came Sunday against the Bears and all but one of them came from Cassel. All three of his touchdown passes came from Cassel despite the veteran quarterback playing in only 26 percent of the team's offensive snaps.

"Greg and I hit it off since we got here, both coming here as free agents. He's such a tremendous man, he works hard, he's a very smart football player," Cassel said. "It's been great for me to be around a guy like that, a guy who continues to motivate himself to get better each and every day. We just have a great relationship. We love talking football. We both have families, small children. I was just at his daughter's birthday party (Saturday), so it's just a lot of fun. Greg's a great player so it's been good."

According to head coach Leslie Frazier, Jennings had a stomach virus on Saturday and was "really sick throughout the afternoon." He didn't stay with at the team hotel Saturday night and joined the team Sunday morning, his playing status still in question. His production surely wasn't affected, especially when Cassel entered in relief of a concussed Ponder.

"They definitely connected well in the time that Matt has been in there going back to that Pittsburgh ballgame," Frazier said. "Just Matt being able to find a guy that he trusts, I would imagine, and getting the ball in his hands. Greg doesn't let him down. He makes some big-time catches."

More often than not, those catches come from Cassel passes.

In the three games with extensive Cassel action, Jennings has been targeted 23 times for 16 catches, 204 yards and three touchdowns. In the other nine games, he has been targeted 48 times for 27 catches and 313 yards.

The averages per game break down like this: With Cassel in those three games, Jennings averaged 7.7 targets, 5.3 catches for 68 yards and one touchdown; in the other nine games when Cassel either didn't play or didn't play a majority of the time, Jennings averaged 5.3 targets, three catches for 34.8 yards and no touchdowns. Take out the Freeman game against the Giants and the averages go down to 4.75 targets, 2.9 catches, 34 yards and no touchdowns.

Jennings said the quarterback decision is up to the catches, but, to no one's surprise, the Vikings' highest paid receiver had high praise for their highest paid quarterback.

"Can't speak enough high regards to what he did. I've said this in the past: He approaches every week as though he's the starter so when it is his opportunity to step up and make plays he's ready," Jennings said. "He prepares like a pro should prepare every week. Hat goes off to him. I can't say enough about him. He's a great guy to have in your back pocket."


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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