Last year, the addition of Adrian Peterson resulted in more explosive running plays, but the Vikings still would like to improve their deep threat in the passing game. Enter – quickly – Bernard Berrian, a free agent signed away from the one-time Monsters of the Midway.
In his first offseason in purple, the speedy Berrian has been working with third-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to improve the team's chances at increasing their explosive plays.
"That's a major emphasis for us out here as an offense is to improve our pass game. He's an explosive player," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Berrian. "He's got great ball skills. You expect to get good plays down the field for him, but because of his speed, he gets great separation and that is something we're looking for. We've got it down to one-on-one matchups outside, and we need to win those matchups and get good separation."
After the Vikings jettisoned Troy Williamson in an offseason trade for a sixth-round draft pick from Jacksonville, Berrian was paid handsomely to give the Vikings a vertical element that would catch the ball on a consistent basis.
So far, so good. Berrian has showed his speed in offensive sessions during organized team activities this week, but he could get more of a test on Thursday when the offense finally is expected to go against the defense. Right now, he hasn't been using his explosive ability to its fullest just yet.
"It depends on what the route calls for," Berrian said. "If it's something where I know that this is definitely what we're doing, the conversions, this is what I've got to do against this coverage, then I'm cutting it loose and going."
The early work is starting to pay off.
"I think he signed the one day and the next day he was pretty much here," Jackson said. "It shows that he's committed and he'll come here and work hard to get on the same page as us. He's been here since day one and we've come a long way and still have a long way to go."
Bevell said the timing between Jackson and Berrian is still developing.
"I think the timing is coming. It's still obviously a work in progress. It's not training camp. We're not that far along," Bevell said. "The system, he's kind of still going through, this set of OTAs is really the first time he's going through as much as we're throwing at him right now. So there are still conversions and things that he's got to work on, but I think he's where he needs to be right now."
Berrian said he has treated practices so far like he's going out and playing catch with Jackson, or maybe a hard version of that game. The receiver said Jackson throws harder than he expected but added that "he throws a nice ball."
Berrian acknowledged that he is still getting used to the offense, but the pace is starting to pick up.
"It's a little more faster pace and it's where the action is going on. This out here is where you get prepared for the season," he said. "Some of the stuff has been a little difficult. A lot of it is all the same terms and terminology. It's just that some terminology is used for different route combinations, so you've just got to make sure that you're in the playbook so you don't mess up.
"As soon as we're done installing the whole play book and I can look at it over and over again, then it will come a lot easier."