The Weakest Link

The Vikings are going to be closing up their latest round of OTAs and there has been plenty of discussion on a divergent set of topics as the team starts the building process to the 2007 season. But, of all the talking points of the post-draft process, wide receiver has been sorely lacking. Perhaps that should change.

The talk of the OTA sessions to date has been on numerous topics. Take your pick which is at the top of the list – Tarvaris Jackson being handed the keys to the franchise, the impact Adrian Peterson will have on the franchise, the questions surrounding the future of Antoine Winfield with the team, the returns expected from Chad Greenway and Erasmus James and the role Brad Childress will have in the down-to-down play-calling next season.

All of them are legitimate topics of discussion. But the one area that has been conspicuously absent from "front-burner" conversation has been the status of the Vikings wide receiver corps. Since the end of last season, the phrase "wide receiver corpse" could have been a more appropriate talking point. Ever since the Vikings cashed in Randy Moss while he still had lottery-pick value, the Vikings offense has been missing that big-play dimension. Wide receivers and the Vikings have been an unsung staple of the franchise that has been consistent and impressive for the last 30 years or more. Sammy White begat Ahmad Rashad, who begat Anthony Carter, who begat Cris Carter, who begat Moss. The Vikings have always had a prime-time wide receiver and, when the absence is evident, it sticks out.

In the two years since the Vikings traded Moss, their leading receivers have been Jermaine Wiggins and Travis Taylor. The team made no effort to re-sign either after the 2006 season. Is that an indictment on either of them or both? Perhaps. The number of Vikings veteran players released in the last few years that have made any sort of a splash elsewhere has been minimal. They seem to know what they're doing when they give up on someone. But, what are they giving up on them for?

What remains on the current Vikings roster is what an optimist would say is a collection of young talent that could develop into a core of explosive players that could be the talent that turns the Vikings offense around. Well, optimist or drunkard, one way or another, they see something most of the rest of us don't – a go-to receiver that will make not only Jackson, but Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor not have to face eight men in the box on every play. A pessimist looks at the same group and asks where is the go-to guy is coming from.

Not to highlight or lowlight anyone, the Vikings roster currently contains 13 wide receivers. They are, in alphabetical order, Aundrae Allison, Jason Carter, Cortez Hankton, Randy Hymes, Todd Lowber, Maurice Mann, Billy McMullen, Martin Nance, Sidney Rice, Justin Surrency, Bobby Wade, Chandler Williams and Troy Williamson.

Take a second to drink that in. While the Vikings have taken great strides to improve other facets of the team, Moss in one season has produced more numbers than this baker's dozen combined.

Can the receiver corps become a strong suit of the Vikings? Sure. Will they? That's a completely different question. When Brad Childress was with the Eagles, he had some very good teams with some very pedestrian wide receivers. Even if he doesn't want to admit it, the only year he got to a Super Bowl was the year he had Terrell Owens telling to speak to T.O. only when spoken to.

While wide receivers are clearly the divas of the NFL – the pains in the neck that whine and gripe if they don't get enough balls thrown their way – they have earned diva status because they either do stand out or want to stand out. With the current crop of Vikings receivers, one should be wondering not who will be cut before the regular season, but who will they keep?

The current chatter about other positions and other players is dominating the headlines. But, it's only a matter of time before hard scrutiny is placed on the group of wide receivers the Vikings are heading into the 2007 season with. Who is No. 1? Who is No. 2? Who are Nos. 3, 4 and 5? At this point, perhaps even Childress doesn't know.

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