With the departure of wide receiver of Cris Carter following the 2001 season, the Minnesota Vikings were left with a void that has yet to be fully filled. Not saying that replacing a quality receiver, such as Carter would be a simple task, but the Vikings have had their fair share of mediocrity at the wide receiver position outside Randy Moss since Carter left.
The names are endless when thinking back to the players that have lined up opposite Moss. From the failed Derrick Alexander experiment to the moderate success the team has tasted with D'Wayne Bates, the story remains the same. Minnesota isn't seeking an average wide receiver; the team wants a receiver that has big-play ability, a player than can more than just complement the talented Moss.
Enter Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson. Both are wide receivers that have shown head coach Mike Tice the desire and physical ability, not only to line up on Sunday's but to enhance the offensive machine that offensive coordinator Scott Lineham directs.
Though undersized to a degree, Campbell has let his growth and production do his talking. Being a second-year receiver, he really was not expected to make an impact on this Vikings team. Coming out of Georgia Tech, many questions surrounded the feisty Campbell. From issues regarding possible indiscretion to a significant drop in production during his last season with the Yellow Jackets, Campbell was fortunate the Vikings took a flyer on the quick and reliable wideout. Midway through the 2002 season, Campbell started to surface on the playing field, but it was well beforehand that the coaching staff had noticed his play.
"We were looking for talent and depth at the wide receiver position when we brought this kid (Campbell) in here. Watching him on film, we knew that he had speed and talent, but that does not necessitate that he could play in this league," Mike Tice said. "He has done a good job and has come a long way. Kelly played on special teams and worked his way into the rotation (at wide receiver). He complements the core of receivers here well."
With the foot injury suffered by starting wide receiver D'Wayne Bates, both Campbell and Burleson have grasped the opportunity for playing time and an increased role of prominence in the explosive Minnesota offense.
"Burleson was a kid that we liked and felt could become a solid receiver with the right coaching," Linehan said. "If you watch him, he doesn't look or play like a rookie, he runs very good routes and has become very polished. He has the potential to grow into a special receiver."
How special can Campbell and Burleson become?
"(D'Wayne) Bates was barely holding onto his starting spot before he injured his foot," a team source said. "Kelly Campbell and especially Nate Burleson have come in and played extremely well for us, they have become significant contributors to this team."
"Scott (Linehan) has done a great job with the offense, and to get the consistent production from two young wide receivers like that speaks measures about his coaching ability."
Young Wideouts Getting Approval
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