Coaches Q&A: WRs Coach Wes Chandler

Wide receivers coach Wes Chandler talks about the different roles each of his receivers fills, the differences in the quarterbacks and young receivers becoming accustomed to the game.

Wes Chandler is in his first season with the Vikings as their receivers coach. Chandler, a former NFL receiver, coached in NFL Europe for seven seasons. He was the Dallas Cowboys' receivers coach from 2000-02.

Chandler's NFL career spanned 11 seasons between the New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers. During his seven seasons with the Chargers, Chandler was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He ranks fifth in Chargers' history with 373 receptions and his 6,132 receiving yards rank seventh in the team annals. His career totals of 559 receptions, 8,996 yards and 56 touchdowns place him among the NFL's all-time great receivers.

Chandler's best season as a pro was during the strike-shortened 1982 season. In just eight games he caught 49 passes for 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns. He was the only receiver in the league to eclipse 1,000 yards in 1982, and his average of 129 yards per game set a league record, which has yet to be broken. In one game against Cincinnati in 1982, Chandler racked up 260 receiving yards. He was named the NFL's most outstanding player that year.

Q: Now that Brad Johnson is in and Daunte Culpepper is out, how much has that changed your receivers' routes?

Brad got a lot of throwing in during minicamps in the spring and in the summer at training camp. It might have changed in terms of the deep ball and the velocity of the ball. But outside of that they just go out and play. They don't so much worry about who's throwing it.

Q: Statistically, we haven't seen a noticeable difference, but how much of a shot in the arm was it to get Nate Burleson back after his early-season injury?

At one point we've become accustom to Nate being injured, but yet giving us his mental support and being a vocal leader despite not being on the field. The unique situation is while we do not have that guy who is the Terrell Owens type we still have a solid corps of receivers. The advantage to that is we had some guys who could step in and fill the void while Nate was rehabilitating himself. Nate plays with emotion, and that's what we need as a football team. We need emotion. We need that adrenaline going in. And we definitely need someone who's a vocal leader as well as playing.

Q: How important is it for an offense to have a No. 1 receiver?

Not necessarily. Collectively you can go and win. When the Rams won it, I don't think they had a No. 1 receiver. They just had two competitive guys who were just about the same. They did things differently and brought different things to the table and they were very, very productive. They had a third guy in Ricky Proehl and that made them good. When you look at New England, they've been Super Bowl champions in three of the last four years and there is no one guy out there. It's just a group of guys who believe in the system and sell out at all costs to win ballgames. They have no one that's looking to be the so-called guy. Knock on wood, we don't have those type of guys that give you problems.

Q: Has Travis Taylor played the way you expected when the Vikings signed him?

Travis Taylor has done a fantastic job. He has done everything that has been asked of him and by all accounts he has done everything that is asked of him, and by all means he has come in here and been a major contributor. He's been able to help us do some things, and of course, he frees up Nate because last year for the most part, Nate was playing inside. Just think if Travis had not been here this year, we would not have had that H receiver with Nate out.

Q: Marcus Robinson seems to be playing well for you?

Marcus has accepted the role of being the third guy, but with so much three-wide (offensive plays) he's just like being a starting guy. It's a lot like Indianapolis, where they play three receivers all the time. Marcus has been given the opportunity to make some plays and he has made those plays. He's been very, very consistent. He's been around the game a long time and he's a student of the game and he takes that approach.

Q: What has impressed you most about Troy Williamson that maybe you didn't anticipate on draft day?

There's nothing I had not anticipated. I expected him to come in here and learn and grow as we go. As the season progressed I expected him to get better and recognize the little things that will give him setbacks from time to time, but take advantage of that the following week. I expected him to as the year progresses get better at the things he made mistakes at earlier in the year.

Q: You were a successful receiver for a long time in the NFL. How long does it take a rookie to get adjusted and feel comfortable in the NFL?

For some it depends on what system they play in and what team they play for. Some rookies don't have a choice. But for the most part, in the league this year, you don't see one particular rookie receiver setting the league on fire. I've always said it takes these young kids — because they come out so young now — a full year to get acclimated with the length of the season. At the midway point they've already played their 12 games here, which would include their bowl game — eight and four preseason. That's a long, long season for a young guy, especially when we're only halfway through the season. When they hit the wall we still have eight games remaining. That becomes mental and it wears and tears on them physically because everyone is bigger, faster and stronger.

Q: Might we see more of Koren in upcoming games?

For a guy who had not played he was not in football shape. He was in decent shape as an individual. But to be able to play the game at a high level and a level that he's used to competing at, he was not ready for that. It's taken some time to get him acclimated to the game again and taking hits and bumps and bruises and getting used to the natural things that come to you in terms of the decision-making cuts and moves. When he first started returning kicks, you did not see that. You saw that he had some ability, but he needed to get in game shape so he could go ahead and hit it with the burst and speed we know he has.

Q: How much has an inconsistent running game affected your pass attack?

Without a good running game, people just sit back and play zone coverage and shut you down. The running game sets up the play-action, the play-action is what you need for a passing game. It allows you to do so much. It allows you to get behind defenders. It allows you to throw deep. It allows you to get your receivers out there on an island one-on-one because the safeties have to come up and defend the running game. It helps when your offense can run on all cylinders.

Q: Say you could construct the perfect receiver. What parts of whose game would you use?

A combination of all of them from the receivers here. They all have some things a little different that others possess. That's from savvy to hands to initial moves to instinct to competition to competitive fire. I could definitely build an ideal receiving robot here, because we definitely have the right parts. Most of our receivers here have great size.

Q: Will Antonio Gates make folks in San Diego forget about Kellen Winslow?

No. He will be a helluva player for what they do in this day and time, but in terms of what has already been established, you can't erase the past.

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