One glance at the receiving stats for the Minnesota Vikings should scream “PRESEASON!”
Adam Thielen leads the team with seven receptions, followed by Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon and Chase Ford with six. Scroll way down to the bottom and there lies Mike Wallace, the $9 million receiver the Vikings acquired in an offseason trade with the Miami Dolphins.
Wallace isn’t worrying and apparently neither should Vikings fans.
“Yeah, it will come. I’m not worried about it,” Wallace said. “I think we’ve got a good rapport. In practice, we’re doing really well. It’s just so tough in the preseason because of the things you’re doing. You’re not really showing too much, not switching up formations. It’s just kind of basic – so basic – that you don’t want to put too much into it. As a player, you don’t want to get too up or too down over preseason. You just come out, try to get your plays and do your job – make sure you’re in the right spots and do the best you can.”
Wallace had 22 snaps in Saturday night’s win against the Oakland Raiders and Charles Johnson, the other starting receiver, had 25. Johnson had a touchdown, the only touchdown catch among the top three receivers – Wallace, Johnson and Jarius Wright – on the team.
That touchdown came after offensive coordinator Norv Turner spoke with Johnson prior to Saturday’s game and said he wanted to get him more involved.
“Norv spoke to me at the beginning of the week and talked about getting me more involved this week, just how we can get things rolling,” Johnson said after Saturday’s win. “We know there’s limited snaps out there and we wanted to get everybody some touches. It’ll all come together. Our main focus is winning games and trying to perform as best we can as a team. The other things will come.”
So will the unveiling of the real, more complex, offense. At this point, Turner and the Vikings are keeping it vanilla, hoping to add a sweeter flavor when the regular season starts.
Wallace’s words match his demeanor. There appears to be a quiet confidence about what the near-term future holds.
“I know my plays will come, I’ll be involved. I’m just want to make sure I’ve got the offense down pat where I’m just playing,” Wallace said. “I feel really good about it as far as knowing my assignments and being able to play fast. That’s my main focus right now, just being able to play fast and being on the same page with everybody else.”
While there is a distinct difference between the pace of practices and games, Wallace’s assessment in that realm might be surprising. The timing of full-speed routes in games would seem important, but Wallace believes running routes and getting open in practice might be more difficult.
“It will be a lot easier in the games than in practice because you’re not going against the same guys every day. Practice, we still make plays, but it’s a little harder in practice because the guys know your alignments, they know exactly what you’re going to do,” Wallace said.
Veteran cornerback Terence Newman has been especially troublesome for Wallace. Newman is known for his ability to diagnose routes, and the more time he spends going against the Vikings offense, the more he knows about the routes they are going to run. Newman has diagnosed routes before Wallace has run them in training camp for an interception and he did again on Monday for a pass defensed.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings have tried to get Wallace more involved at times during the preseason games to date, but in-game adjustments always carry more weight than pregame intentions.
“Some of the things that happen during the game dictates where the ball goes. We planned on getting the ball to Mike a little bit more last week, but it’s just the way the game came out,” Zimmer said. “I really don’t want the quarterback to predetermine exactly where the ball is going. We could get him the ball on some easy throws, but we’re not really trying to do that.”
Johnson, playing in this offense for most of last season, has gotten a bigger taste of it this preseason than Wallace. But when the regular season begins, both should be heavily involved on the receiving end of Bridgewater’s passes.
“It’s just so tough in the preseason because of the things you’re doing. You’re not really showing too much, not switching up formations. It’s just kind of basic – so basic – that you don’t want to put too much into it,” Wallace said. “As a player, you don’t want to get too up or too down over preseason. You just come out, try to get your plays and do your job – make sure you’re in the right spots and do the best you can.”
Wallace, Johnson wait out Vikings’ preseason
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