Trying to find a true No. 1 receiver in the offense has been difficult and the revolving door at wide receiver has been well-documented. Nate Burleson, Travis Taylor, Koren Robinson and Troy Williamson were all hoped to be that guy, but none of them ever panned out. As a result, the Vikings have struggled to have a wide receiver that can make an impact. Instead of having a true go-to receiver, the team has taken the "wide receiver-by-committee" approach, with mixed results at best.
That, however, is expected to change this year. When free agency began at the end of February, one of the first big signings the Vikings made was to snag Bernard Berrian away from division rival Chicago. Berrian, who gives the element of deep speed and good hands that has been missing from the Vikings passing game since Moss left for Oakland, is expected to bring the big-play component back to the Minnesota pass offense. While there was no questioning Williamson's speed, his penchant for dropping wide-open passes was the source of just about as much frustration as any on the team the last couple of years.
The addition of Berrian gives the Vikings more depth at the wide receiver position than the Vikings have had in some time. Bobby Wade, a free-agent signing prior to the 2007 season, is a dependable slot receiver who led the team in receptions last year. Sidney Rice had a solid rookie season in 2007 and is viewed as a budding star of the future. With those three, the Vikings have a solid front line of wide receivers and, with only five roster spots available, the competition for the remaining two wide receiver slots is going to be a competitive battle.
Veteran Robert Ferguson is looking to reclaim his career, so much so that he didn't look to sign elsewhere when free agency began and accepted a contract that doesn't pay him much more than veteran minimum in order to stay with the Vikings. Aundrae Allison is the other frontrunner to grab one of the remaining roster spots because of his ability in the return game. He and Ferguson will face a challenge from a handful of young, untested receivers hoping to make an impression and latch on.
With defenses expected to be loading the box to stop Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, the Vikings offense is going to depend on Tarvaris Jackson being able to get the ball to his wide receivers in order to for the offense to click on all cylinders. In Berrian, they have a big-play deep threat. In Rice, they have a playmaker that is dangerous in the red zone. In Wade, they have a dependable receiver who is willing to go over the middle and play the slot and move the chains.
The Vikings have yet to fully recover from the loss the Moss and the level of production and fear he brought to the offense. This season may be the first time since Moss left that the Vikings have the talent needed at wide receiver to compete at anything resembling that level. The team has used the draft and free agency to augment the position and, with a lot of pressure expected to be applied to the receiver corps this season as teams pack eight in the box on most downs, the wide receivers are going to have a lot of one-on-one opportunities, which should open things up considerably and give the team the opportunity to return the big play to the passing game.