It's Not All Defensive

The theme for the Vikings' 2004 free-agent and draft prospectus is centering around defense, but the team isn't going to completely ignore the offensive side of the ball, according to a team source.

The Minnesota Vikings were the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL in 2003, but they are still looking to improve. Getting quarterback Daunte Culpepper additional weapons is not the highest priority this off-season, but the likelihood is probable.

Depth at the running back position has awarded Minnesota the opportunity to be selective, while not wasting valuable time evaluating players the team may not have a specific need for. This selective situation further focuses the efforts of the Vikings' scouting department and pro personnel evaluators to attack the areas of greatest need for the team.

Taking pressure off Culpepper and wide receiver Randy Moss is the direction the team is looking when discussing the offense. Minnesota has some talented players at the wide receiver position, but uncertainty reigns within the masses as to how high the ceiling is for current Vikings Nate Burleson, Kelly Campbell, and D'Wayne Bates.

Bates battled injuries during the 2003 season and is strictly a possession-type receiver. In Campbell the Vikings have a shifty receiver with good speed, a player that may be better suited for the slot role.

Burleson, a rookie last season, is the intriguing player of the group behind Moss. Tall and lanky, Burleson surprised many with his ability to adapt to the league rather quickly in his inaugural season. Mainly used as the No. 3 receiver behind Moss and Bates, Burleson was a solid complement and contributor to the Minnesota offense.

"Burleson is a player we were intrigued with due to his athletic ability and mature nature he possessed when we talked with him prior to the draft last season. He has good hands and runs very crisp routes, all elements of the game we were looking to improve upon heading into last season," a team source said. "When Bates went down with foot issues, he (Burleson) stepped in and played extremely well, especially for a rookie.

"In training camp we thought he could help this team immediately, and he did. Actually, once he gained some experience in camp we believed he could complete for a starting spot at some point during the season."

With Burleson emerging as the first option behind Moss, the Vikings appear to have depth at the wide receiver position, as well as an influx of youth.

"Right now, Burleson would be considered the No 2 receiver behind Moss, but that could easily change in the months leading up to training camp. We are not in a position where we can sit back and cruise," the source continued. "You can never have enough weapons. If Moss were to go down, we would have some serious questions and issues at the position.

"It is easy to sit here and state we need another wide receiver, but getting one is much tougher than talking about it. Our goal is to improve every facet of this team — getting an explosive receiver to line up opposite Moss is one of them."

And where does such a move leave Burleson, Bates, and Campbell?

"Competition brings out the best in a player. We are talking about some young players with talent that can contribute, which we expect they will as members of the Minnesota Vikings," the source concluded.



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