The days of "Three Deep" for the Vikings have gone the way of VCRs, rotary phones and a $1 cup of coffee.
It wasn't that long ago when Vikings receivers created their own show on turf and often sent not one, but two players to the Pro Bowl. Remember 1999? Cris Carter led the Vikings with 90 catches for 1,241 yards, Randy Moss had 80 catches for 1,413 yards, and Jake Reed had a paltry 44 catches for 643 yards.
It seems crazy, but Reed's complementary role in '99 would make him the leading receiver in yardage in 2005 for the Vikings, a team whose receiving corps could fill out an entire starting lineup for a basketball team.
Travis Taylor leads all Vikings wide receivers with 45 catches for 536 yards. Marcus Robinson has 31 catches for 515 yards, rookie Troy Williamson has 22 catches for 360 yards, Koren Robinson has 21 for 344, and Nate Burleson — the top receiver a year ago — has 24 receptions for 252 yards.
In '99, Carter had 13 touchdown catches, Moss had 11. Marcus Robinson leads the receivers with five scores this season; together all five have receivers have 12 this year (one less than Carter's total in '99).
But according to receivers coach Wes Chandler, that the Vikings lacked a primary receiver this season wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"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," Chandler said. "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."
The possibility of having too many chefs stirring the soup became somewhat evident when head coach Mike Tice said he would like the Vikings offense to settle into three receivers Sunday against the Bears. Rather than shuttling in all five receivers, the Vikings are expected to go with three main players.
"(When) you have five wide receivers you are trying to get in the game, it kind of makes you herky-jerky a little bit when you are trying to get all five guys the ball," Tice said. "I don't know another team that has five guys they suit up and they are trying to get all five guys the ball."
That's music to some of the receivers' ears. While all admit they know their roles and aren't that frustrated with sharing the ball, most admit it would be easier to get into a flow of the game if they were playing every down on offense.
"It's tough getting in the rhythm of the game, but if you have a mindset already about what's going to happen as far as you know what you're going to do in the game and you know the couple of plays when they're going to call your number, then you prepare for that," Marcus Robinson said. "If you have a mindset where you think you're going to play the whole game, then you don't, that can mess with you. But if you know your role and you can play that role, you'll be fine."
Marcus Robinson has been battling the flu all week and has missed practice time. His absence might have already made the decision to go with a smaller group of receivers Sunday a bit easier.
Even though none of the receivers had what could be perceived as banner seasons, they all appeared to be content with their roles. That might not be able to last another season.
"I'm not sure," Koren Robinson said, when asked if all five receivers could fit into the Vikings' plans. "I don't know what decisions are going to be made, or additions or departures. We'll have to come to that when we get to it.
"All five of us can play. We have five talented receivers that can play. I would keep every one of them. We all can make plays, but it's not a perfect world so I don't think (all five will return).
"We all want more balls."
As a rookie first-round draft pick, Williamson has used this season as a learning year. While he would have preferred a greater role in the team's offense this season, he said he tried not to allow frustration to prevail.
"When you have people in front of you like that you learn from them," Williamson said. "You learn from what they're doing and apply it … and it makes you a better receiver."
"Three Deep" Thing of the Past
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