Wright is in his third season and, as many observers have noticed over the years, the third year is typically when wide receivers reach their full potential and Wright is clearly on that path.
He’s a good fit in Norv Turner’s offense and thanks to an off-field issue that led to the release of Jerome Simpson, Wright has moved up the depth chart and has earned the opportunity from the coaching staff to be more of a factor in the Vikings offense.
“I think I’ve given the coaching staff confidence in me to ask more of me,” Wright said. “I also believe I’ve shown them that I can play. Teddy and I have also got a lot of reps together, so he has a lot of trust in me, too.”
Before Simpson was released, he was running with Matt Cassel and the first-team offense, along with Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. Wright was working with the second-team offense and most of his passes were coming from rookie Teddy Bridgewater. When Simpson was released, Wright was able to move up to the first-team, despite having very little experience working with Cassel.
When Cassel got injured, Bridgewater became the starter and, suddenly, no receiver in the offense had more experience with the new starter than Wright. While Patterson and Jennings were learning to get their timing with Bridgewater down, Wright was already ahead of the curve.
“Matt Cassel was the starter and we had three other receivers that were starting in front of me,” Wright said. “Teddy was going with the twos (second-teamers) and I was also going with the twos. It gave us a lot of time to work together and get a chance to rhythm up with each other.”
In the three games that Cassel started, Wright caught three passes for 37 yards. In the four games since Bridgewater replaced the injured Cassel, Wright has caught 19 passes for 236 yards – more than Jennings or Patterson.
It’s all part of Wright’s master plan. He has become more of a professional receiver in each of his three seasons. As a rookie in 2012, he caught 22 passes for 310 yards. Last year, he caught 26 passes for 434 yards.
Despite his lack of use in the first three games, Wright is on pace to catch 50 passes for 624 yards. If you take out the three games where Cassel was the starter, Wright would be projected to finish the season with 65 passes for 704 yards. Wright attributes his steady increase to becoming more familiar with the nuances of playing wide receiver in the NFL.
“As you go on every year and even each and every game, you learn more – not only about yourself, but about the other team you’re playing,” Wright said. “It goes along with film study and learning to know your opponent. As you get older, you learn how to do that stuff. There’s a lot of things that come into play as you get older and learn more about what you need to do to be a successful NFL player.”
It wasn’t that Wright came to the NFL believing he knew everything there was to know, but he became a bit overwhelmed as to how much there was to learn when he came to the Vikings.
While he was able to show flashes of his ability his first two seasons, he is convinced he is on the cusp of a breakout period in his career.
“There is a lot you don’t know when you come into this league,” Wright said. “You have an idea, but you really don’t know until you actually get here. That’s a big thing, just understanding the game – different speeds, different play calls. There’s so much that goes into it.” For a player who started his career with the anticipation of being the backup slot receiver to Percy Harvin, Wright is now in the position to make a statement to the Vikings that, as he enters his contract year next season, he deserves a second contract that will give him financial security.
His goal isn’t money, however. It’s about earning his spot to get in position to get offered the money he will deserve at that point.
“My personal goal is to get better every year,” Wright said. “Whatever my stats were last year, I want to try to double that. If I keep playing hard like I am and the coaches keep having faith in me, I think I can definitely do it. This new coaching staff has definitely given me the opportunity. Now I’m just trying to make the most of it.”