Rice Displaying Red Zone Skills

Wide receiver Sidney Rice's college highlight film shows him making plays in a number of different roles, but he could be the cure for one of the Vikings' biggest needs – scoring points in the red zone. See what the big-framed receiver had to say about that play and his skills.

Sidney Rice didn't have the most yards-by-per catch for the Vikings this preseason and he didn't have the most catches either, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver could prove to help the Vikings with one of their biggest offensive deficiencies from 2006.

"I'm always excited to be in the end zone," he said matter-of-factly Thursday night after catching the only touchdown passes of the preseason thrown by a Vikings quarterback.

The red zone was a consistent source of pain for the Vikings last season, and the passing game was one of the reasons why. The Vikings averaged a touchdown on only 2.41 percent of their pass attempts, the lowest percentage in the NFC and second only to Oakland's NFL-worst 1.45 percent. In contrast, the Philadelphia Eagles' 5.7 percent was tops in the league, and given the fact that Philadelphia is head coach Brad Childress's former team he has to anticipate the possibilities.

On Thursday night, Rice's 4-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter that gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead might not have seemed like much, but it drove home a number of complimentary points about the athletic receiver who is wearing the same jersey number – 18 – that former Vikings receiver Randy Moss wore in his rookie preseason.

First, Rice showed great balls skills by leaping high and reaching backwards to grab the ball.

"It's routine. We work on that every day in practice when we come out," Rice said of his body control. "Coach (George) Stewart and Chad O'Shea in our individual period, that's one thing – different kind of throws, from the waist down, from the ankles down – different kind of throws. It comes in handy as you can see. It's a real big help."

The second-quarter score came from the arm of Brooks Bollinger, whose less-than-stellar preseason performance prompted the Vikings to trade for Kelly Holcomb. While the pass was behind Rice, putting it up high was the right move. That's where the Vikings want passes to the back of the end zone, where Rice was.

And Rice even suggested that the pass being behind him might have been because of his timing on the play, which they worked on last week.

"It was a play that the coaches drew out and it worked just like they drew it up on the board," Rice said. "We went through it all week and actually had a few problems with it, but we talked it over with the coaches and it worked out just like they drew it up on the board."

"I reached back for it a little bit, but it may have been on me."

The timing of the route is important, Rice said, but he's also learning to contribute more than just in the red zone.

"He is a very bright-eyed guy, catches about everything you throw to him, high and low, and he is a tough guy," Childress said in August.

Rice's big frame would seem to make him a natural target in the end zone, but he said he's up for however the coaches want to use him. A good place to start in the regular season would be in scoring touchdowns.


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