Wide receiver has quickly become one of the deeper positions on the Minnesota Vikings roster. They just selected Laquon Treadwell in the first round of this year’s draft and he isn’t even working with the starters. Instead, he is with the second team working behind Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson.
Then you have players like Adam Thielen and Jarius Wright who were able to make contributions to the team last season. They even have Cordarrelle Patterson, who is a former first-round pick and had been looking good through organized team activities and minicamp before suffering an injury on Friday, the first day of training camp.
So far, Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner seems to be happy with what he has been seeing.
Treadwell struggled when he first arrived in OTAs, but he has clearly gotten more comfortable with what is being asked of him as time goes on.
“I could tell he worked hard on the things we gave him this summer,” Turner said of the team’s first-round selection. “The things we told him when we left from our OTAs that he needed to work on and it showed up that he put a lot of time in in the summer. Because he was running very fluid and had a much better feel for the routes.”
Even though he has had little to no reps with the first-team offense, there is still going to be a lot expected from Treadwell this season. That’s just what happens when you’re a first-round pick. The fans build up a lot of hype, but the coaches seem to be equally excited.
He is a big-bodied receiver and Turner can’t wait to utilize him out on the field in both the running and passing games.
“The one thing we expect him to give us is a physical presence in the run game and as a receiver,” Turner said. “ ... Breaking tackles, getting big blocks and out-jumping (defensive backs), those type of things.”
While many people expected Treadwell to come into camp as one of the Vikings starting receivers, along with Diggs, Johnson has been holding onto that role so far. He is a big-bodied receiver, like Treadwell, and has been putting on a good performance now that he is healthy again.
Johnson missed some time last season because of a rib injury and ended up getting lost in the depth chart once Diggs got his chance to play and ran with it. But Johnson is now back in the mix and clearly doing everything he can to stay there.
“He’s healthy, No.1,” Turner began. “He had that rib issue and it was a real issue. Then, unfortunately, in this league you miss some time and then a guy steps in like Diggs did and your opportunities are limited. Charles has a good sense of doing what he needs to do to get ready and knowing that when you’re called upon you need to make the most of those opportunities. He’s had a really good offseason. He looks ready to go. He’s really running his routes well right now, catching balls. It’s a long process as we go through and we’re going to need all those guys.”
Another player that always seems to get a little overlooked is Wright. He was the Vikings’ slot receiver last season and seemed to be able to create big plays whenever he got the ball in his hands. He and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater built a nice rapport in 2014 when they were both working with the second-team offense, and that carried into games the last two seasons.
Turner has noticed that, so he is very confident in the Vikings’ most veteran receiver.
“The one thing that I’ll tell you about Jarius Wright the last two years, any time he gets called on he’s been productive and he’s made plays,” Turner explained. “There’s only one ball and there’s only so many balls you’re going to throw, you’re going to run the ball and all that. We’re working a lot of different guys in the slot. Jarius is one of them. I have a lot of confidence that when he gets the opportunity, he’ll perform.”
Then there are players like Thielen and Patterson, who primarily contributed on special teams last season, but gotten some opportunities on offense and have been having been looking good so far. Both have been getting reps with the first-team offense, and both appear to be on the right track to making the team.
Patterson had a bit of a hiccup when he landed hard on his left shoulder after going up for a contested pass during Monday’s practice, but he was back at the team’s walk-through the following morning without a sling. He wasn’t participating, but his presence at practice appears to be a good sign.
There is still a long way to go until the start of the regular season, and the preseason will play a big role in how much playing time the individual receivers get. There is a lot of competition out on the field, and there will have to be some difficult decisions made when the team makes their roster cuts.