Despite having nine wide receivers on the roster before last weekend's draft, the Minnesota Vikings saw the weaknesses in the top end of their receiving corps and drafted three more.
This weekend, they got the first look at those rookies – second-round pick Sidney Rice, fifth-round selection Aundrae Allison and seventh-round pick Chandler Williams – and more.
"I think they're all strong to the football," head coach Brad Childress said after seeing them in action in Vikings uniforms for the first time Friday. "I think they all bring a little something different. Obviously Sidney has got great length, great hand-eye, great jump ball guy – not that Aundrae Allison doesn't have that. Aundrae can do some return things. He's got some pretty good wiggle and can make you miss. Then Chandler Williams did some very good things out here as well (Friday). He may be as polished as any of those guys right at this point."
At 6-3 ½ and timed at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash on the Vikings stopwatches before the draft, Rice could earn a starting spot on the outside in short order. Allison might also have a chance to work his way into action and push the veterans on the roster for playing time.
"I look at competition any way, whether it's putting pressure on, taking pressure off (the veterans). We thrive in this business on competition and all of those guys are very, very competitive guys," Childress said. "I don't care if they've been here or they are coming here. If they feel (the pressure) and they take a step back, so be it. Then the other guys go forward. But competition is what it is. That's what makes good football teams."
The receivers all worked crossing routes and were intentionally given bad throws to gauge their eye-hand coordinating and balance, a drill implemented by new wide receivers coach George Stewart.
"George puts them through some pretty tough drills which are meant to challenge some of their off-balance catches, but I saw (Rice) do a couple of good things out here just in terms of catching the football and then getting it up the field," Childress said.
For his part, Rice remains humble while trying to work his way into the NFL.
"I have a lot to learn, and I'm just taking everything in from all the coaches, whether it's sprinting to the wide or jogging off the field. Everything I can take in from the coaches I'm going to do," Rice said, who was then asked if he could contribute immediately. "I'm going to try my best, but it's Coach's decision who comes on the field and plays. But I'm going to give 100 percent and try my best to get out there."
Childress said all of the rookies will have to show him something special throughout the weekend.
"They have to make a great catch, show great intensity in the special teams, have some redeeming quality is what we talk about. Be known for something, put yourself above somebody else," he said.
Even a street free agent like Todd Lowber showed some promise despite not playing football in college. The former track star could be involved in the team's rookie camp because he is considered a rookie and wasn't drafted last year, mainly because he wasn't on any scouting department's radars until a tryout he held earlier this year and showed some great speed and enough potential with his hands to warrant a chance to make the team.
"I thought he flashed a little bit, just with his speed," Childress said. "Good things hand-wise; he didn't catch them all. He's swimming a little bit from the installation. Am I an X, am I a Z, am I a zebra, and all of that will slow down for him. I don't think you can underestimate the case of nerves that most of these guys have. I thought they were being inducted into the armed forces last night looking back at me like I was going to make them put up their hand and take an oath or something like that. They'll be settled down a little bit more (throughout the weekend)."
But after only one day, the Vikings' receiving corps didn't seem quite as desperate as it did only two weeks ago.
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