Not often does a team with offensive firepower in the NFL rely on a relative unknown as the team's No. 2 wide receiver and a bunch of youthful and inexperienced receivers to fill out the depth at the position. Well, troops, welcome to Minnesota.
Understand, this isn't the way that the Vikings envisioned starting the season. Head coach Mike Tice must have an enormous amount of confidence in the young receivers on the roster to head into the season with second-year pro Kelly Campbell as the third receiver. How about rookie Nate Burleson as the fourth receiver in the explosive Minnesota offense?
What makes this likely scenario more concerning for the team is the notion the team more than likely will be forced to throw the ball more often with the loss of running back Michael Bennett. Part of the Minnesota success offensively was due to the balanced attack the team offered in the second half of the 2002 season. With Bennett likely sidelined for the first half of the season, following a procedure to correct issues from a prior operation to his foot, the Vikings' dependency to throw the football could be at an all-time high.
"The strength of this football team lies on the offensive line. Our plan was to get guys with size and strength to provide us the opportunity in out offensive scheme to both be a power rushing team as well as a solid pass-protecting team. We believe that this offensive line can be as good as any in the league," a team source said. "Losing (Michael) Bennett will hurt us, but we have some guys here that can play the game. We have good depth at the running back position and our receivers, while young, have become a strength for this team. (Kelly) Campbell played well for us last season and has shown us that he wants the ball, and rookie Nate Burleson has been better than we even realized when we drafted him."
"Randy Moss and D'Wayne Bates have stepped up and become leaders, helping these young guys, and they have responded. We are actually pretty happy with where we are at the receiver spots."
Wide receiver Derrick Alexander was brought to Minnesota to be the second receiver, the wideout that would complement Randy Moss and provide quarterback Daunte Culpepper with another viable option in the offensive scheme. That was not the case as knee surgery and some prolonged bouts of moodiness placed Alexander out of the Vikings' 2002 plans.
In the off-season, Alexander appeared to be a changed man. He was working out and was believed to be in good health. Training camp 2003 in Mankato has become more of the former for Alexander. From being counted on as the No. 2 guy because of the talent Alexander had shown for the majority of his career to a player struggling to make the team, times have changed for Alexander.
"(Derrick) Alexander has had the opportunity to play a significant role with us here. Bringing him in here (Minnesota) just hasn't planned out for one reason or the other," the source said. "With the emergence of Bates and Campbell and drafting Burleson, we put the team in a position that we didn't have to depend on Derrick. That isn't a knock on him, we are just being proactive and moving ahead, building this football team based on speed and youth. It hasn't helped that he (Alexander) has had some issues with his knee again this training camp."
Speed, youth, and inexperience are being served in Minnesota. For the sake of the Vikings offense, here's hoping that the young receivers when it's crunch time.
As for Derrick Alexander, … the … clock … is … ticking.
Youth Out Wide Hitting Their Stride?
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