Vikings hope receivers are a catch-all group

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2013 - 6:16 PM

The NFL’s second-worst passing attack adds Jennings, Patterson to seek balance.

hide

Christian Ponder’s revamped receiving corps this season includes, from left, second-year man Jarius Wright, first round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, ex-Packer Greg Jennings and holdover Jerome Simpson.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

If only it were as simple as handing Adrian Peterson the ball and piggybacking him down the field. But it’s not. ¶ A year ago, Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two regular-season games against the Packers. The Vikings lost the first one with Peterson rushing for 210 yards. In the rematch, Peterson went for 199, but the Vikings still needed a last-second field goal and the best game of quarterback Christian Ponder’s young career to win by three points. ¶ Translation: Even “Purple Jesus” needs help parting 11 NFL defenders.

Here are three things that will help the Vikings improve upon last year’s 31st-ranked passing attack and provide the kind of balance that could make Peterson even harder to handle than the guy who ran for 2,097 yards en route to last year’s NFL Most Valuable Player award:

Speedy transition for Jennings

Receiver Greg Jennings spent the past eight seasons catching 425 passes from two Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks with rocket arms who knew the ins and outs of his exceptional but unusual route-running skills. The question now is how quickly Ponder, who doesn’t have that kind of arm strength and isn’t Canton-bound, can get in sync with Jennings.

“Greg is not a typical route runner,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He does a lot of stemming in his routes. If he wants to run an out route, he is not going to just run straight up the field and break out, but he is going to stem the defensive back inside, and try to get his hips turned, get his feet out of whack, and then he will break outside.

“When he releases from press coverages, he is not a guy that is just going to release to you, but he does a lot of shaking at the line of scrimmage. For a quarterback, you need to adjust to how he runs routes, and how effective he is at getting it done, because you don’t want to change what Greg has done to this point.”

Jennings has been complimentary of Ponder but has mentioned on a few occasions that the young QB still needs to learn how to trust his receivers. Jennings is a difficult receiver to learn, and he and Ponder haven’t gotten much preseason work together. So this obviously will be an area to keep an eye on early in the season.

Tapping Patterson’s athleticism

Jennings never was a one-man receiving corps in Green Bay. The Packers’ knack for acquiring waves of excellent wideouts rivals their ability to spot future Hall of Fame quarterbacks that others have overlooked.

In other words, Jennings needs other receivers to help distract the defense. A bounce-back year from Jerome Simpson or a breakout year from Jarius Wright would be nice. But the most explosive scenario could be rookie first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson immediately living up to his status as the most physically gifted receiver on the roster.

“You don’t teach that kind of talent,” Jennings said. “He has it. He has the skill set. He knows what he can do out there. It’s just a matter of being in football shape and making sure he does it every play, not just one play here and one play there.”

Patterson has unusual speed considering it comes in a 6-2, 220-pound package. But it’s his raw route-running that’s in question and could limit his effectiveness as an every-down receiver this season.

“Cordarrelle is not a bad route-runner at all,” Jennings said. “I think he just has to learn how to control his speed and use it. He’s a young guy. His talent is going to do a lot for him. But it’s using that talent and kind of honing it the right way to where he can be a heck of a player in this league. I’m sure he will be. But I’m talking about right now. He could be a dynamic player for us right now.”

Sharpening Ponder’s accuracy

For a variety of reasons, not all of them his fault, Ponder hasn’t been an accurate passer since he completed 68.8 percent of his passes as a junior at Florida State.

His .618 career college completion percentage, which isn’t good enough at the NFL level, was a topic of discussion at Winter Park before the Vikings selected Ponder 12th overall in the 2011 draft.

“When we were searching for a quarterback, we were trying to answer that question of whether a guy can improve his accuracy,” Frazier said. “We think that there are some things that you can do to help a guy improve his accuracy, but if there is one characteristic that can be a flaw when you are trying to develop a quarterback, it is the lack of accuracy.”

Ponder’s completion percentage in 27 NFL games: .592.

“We’re always working on footwork because that kind of dictates the timing and how you want to be on balance when you throw the ball,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “Once you get to the NFL, your throwing motion is what it is. But footwork and working on the mental processing, seeing what you see and eventually being able to digest it and make a real quick decision, helps the accuracy.”

Having the league MVP in the backfield helps. So does a savvy route runner such as Jennings, two big receiving tight ends in Kyle Rudolph and a finally-healthy John Carlson, and a dynamic run-after-the-catch guy in Patterson.

“That’s the whole game; the quarterback as the distributor cap,” Musgrave said. “He doesn’t have to do it all himself. He just needs to put it the right spot so the other guys have a chance to make a play.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - Z. Wheeler 12:10 PM
Miami - H. Alvarez
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 12:10 PM
Atlanta - J. Teheran
Boston - R. De La Rosa 12:10 PM
Tampa Bay - D. Smyly
Minnesota - P. Hughes 12:35 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Pittsburgh - G. Cole 1:15 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
Milwaukee - J. Nelson 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Detroit - D. Price 3:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Kluber
Seattle - C. Young 3:05 PM
Oakland - J. Hammel
San Francisco 2 Suspended
Colorado 2
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
San Diego - T. Ross
San Francisco - T. Hudson 4:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Indiana 3:00 PM
Chicago
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close