Receiving scrutiny: The passing game

While the Vikings made a switch in their starting quarterback, there are issues in the receiving corps. Bernard Berrian and others are struggling with injuries, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has struggled to hold onto the ball in key situations. See what the players and coaches had to say about those issues in the passing game, along with other notes from Thursday at Winter Park.

The Vikings' leading receiver is running back Adrian Peterson, who has five receptions. In fact, the top three receivers on the team aren't wide receivers at all. After Peterson, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and running back Chester Taylor have four receptions, and Garrett Mills is tied with wide receivers Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian for three catches.

It isn't exactly the start that free-agent acquisition Bernard Berrian was hoping for – three catches for 38 yards through two games and held without a catch in last week's 18-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Berrian was thrown to four times, so it wasn't like offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and head coach Brad Childress aren't trying to get him involved. He dropped one and was tripped up on a long pass attempt.

"After the game, Darrell asked me, ‘How many times did you get thrown to?' I was talking to Brad a little bit earlier (Wednesday) and he brought that up again, too. It's cool that they feel that way. I don't want to be looked at like, Oh, we've got to try to keep him happy. I don't want to be in that situation."

Bevell said Berrian's numbers just speak to the passing game overall and that many other players need to be more involved.

Adding to the frustration for Berrian is a toe injury that he has been dealing with since last year as a member of the Chicago Bears. He said he took it easy after the 2007 to try and help it heal, but the first preseason game this year it started giving him problems again.

"It's the best it's going to feel. It's just something I'm going to have to deal with all year," he said.

Last year, Berrian caught 71 passes for 951 yards and five touchdowns, his best season as a pro and became an attractive option for the Vikings, who spent $42 million, including $16 million in guarantees, to sign Berrian to a six-year deal.

So far, that has translated into some frustration for the receiver.

"Yeah, (I'm) frustrated, but the catches will come. They're always going to come. I'm not going to sit there and worry about it. I don't worry about the things that I can't control," Berrian said.

He'll try to turn that around this week against the Carolina Panthers. Berrian said the Panthers' defensive strength is with their front seven and a set of defensive backs who try to keep the play in front of them. But there could be some opportunities.

"Their DBs tend to gamble a little bit to try to pick off plays and really sit on routes," he said.

The other receiver getting some attention for the wrong reasons this week is Shiancoe, who seemed to make progress catching the ball in minicamp this spring but dropped another pass in the end zone Sunday against the Colts.

"That should have been a catch. I should have caught it. It's no excuse. Definitely concentration. Every play you play it like it's your last play," Shiancoe said. "I was probably harder on myself than anybody because I just feel that any ball thrown to me should be caught. It don't matter how far it is and how low it is. Wherever it is, I feel if it touches my hands I should catch it. It might have been the difference in the game or it might not have. It happened in the first quarter and there was a lot of football played after that."

Bevell said there are no plans to take Shiancoe out of the lineup.

"Right now, it seems to me he has troubles catching the ball when he's going down to the ground, those kind of catches, the bang-bang ones where he's hitting the ground," Bevell said. "He seems to catch the ones where he's open in zones and running the cross. He's ended up catching those well. Is there plans to take him out? No there is not. He does some important things for us. Sometimes they are not always seen, but he does some good things for us."

Shiancoe never got a chance to be a featured pass-catching tight end while playing behind Jeremy Shockey with the New York Giants. Despite his drops this year, he is still tied for second on the team with four receptions.

"I'm alright. You have to have short-term memory. Mistakes are going to be made, but I feel like you have to get ready for the next play," Shiancoe said. "I played a pretty solid game. I feel like I should have caught that ball, but you've got to move on."

The combination of Berrian's toe injury, Sidney Rice's sprained posterior cruciate ligament and Aundrae Allison receiving stimulation to his leg has the Vikings dealing with a thin receiving corps. That could mean more playing time for Robert Ferguson.

"That's been the word that came to me (Wednesday), just playing more snaps than I have in the past. I'm looking forward to it," said Ferguson, who backs up Berrian.

Allison said the entire receiving corps is a bit frustrated with not being able to be playmakers.

"I know for a fact (Berrian) is because he's the ultimate competitor. He's always trying to get his hands on the ball and be a big part of what's going on. If that's not happening for him, he's going to be frustrated," Allison said. "We're all kind of frustrated because everybody on the receiving corps is real competitive at what they do. Any time we're not being a big part of the offense and what's going on, win or lose, if we're not a part of it, it's a bad feeling because you want to get your hands on the ball."

Bobby Wade said Berrian's veteran status will help through his struggles.

"Bernard's a professional. He hasn't always been a guy who's been the go-to guy. He understands what it's like to compete and the offenses struggling," Wade said.

NOTES

  • Neither the coaching staff or Adrian Peterson seemed to think his hamstring injury would be much of an issue. Peterson said he tweaked it when he was trying to push a pile late in the Colts game.

    "Not something that' s a worry right," Bevell said of the hamstring. "He's going through practice. He's been out there."

  • Bevell on Gus Frerotte being inserted into the starting lineup: "I think the biggest thing any time you come into this system is the verbiage. He knows the plays. He knows reads. He knows where to go with the ball, but early in the week, anytime you put in some newer information, new plays, it's just being able to spit that play back out. For example, we put in a set of plays yesterday, today he's good with them. But the ones we put in this morning for this walkthrough we just had, you stammer around a little bit with some of the words and he'll come back in tomorrow and he'll have it down."

  • Despite Chester Taylor have a good game returning kickoffs, special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said Maurice Hicks is an option.

  • Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said there are no plans to make a lineup change despite the struggles of CB Cedric Griffin against Indianapolis. Frazier said there are some fundamental things Griffin can work on, but he won't lose his job.

  • Frazier said putting CB Antoine Winfield on Panthers WR Steve Smith has been talked about, but he wouldn't say if that's the plan or not.

  • Frazier is still hoping that safety Madieu Williams will be available for the Tennesse game in Week 4, but he hasn't gotten a recent update on Williams' neck from the medical staff. Williams was going through some extra assignment-related things after the morning walk-through, but there was no running yet and he was held out of Thursday's practice, as was WR Sidney Rice. Williams declined to talk to reporters after Wednesday's practice.


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