By the time Vikings rookie receiver Laquon Treadwell was up to speed and healthy enough, Sam Bradford and Pat Shurmur had taken full control of the offense.
Treadwell, the 23rd-overall pick in last year’s draft, didn’t earn enough playing time in practice or games to build aconnection with the Vikings’ new quarterback.
“That connection between the quarterback and skill position players is really important,” Shurmur said last week. “And that chemistry is really built in the offseason when you get the chance to slow it down, run the individual routes in the concepts.”
After Treadwell’s one-catch season for 15 yards, the Vikings hold out hope he’ll prove worthy of the first-round draft pickfor an offense that hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiver since 2009.
The Vikings cycled through Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson at split end last season. Both are set to become free agents next month while Shurmur hopes to see “great improvements” from Treadwell this offseason.
“[Treadwell] isgoing to be like any young player that's going from year one to year two. This is going to be an offseason that is very critical,” Shurmur said. “He's had a chance now to go through the process once. He'll have a feel for what it's going to feel like and we're anticipating he's going to come back and be raring to go and make great improvements.”
Injuries began to pile up for Treadwell after his feet were bothering him early in the year, according to head coach Mike Zimmer. Following Treadwell’s first extended action — and only catch — against the Lions, he injured his hamstring in practice and didn’t play the next week. He saw just two targetsover the following four games before an ankle injury shut him down for the season.
“He came in and kind of had little nagging things that kind of kept him from full-time early,” Shurmur said. “But when he got in the games – the things he did well when he got in the game, he didn't get targeted often, but he blocked well and he competed. That's really the starting point for any young player.”
A full offseason will allow Shurmur and a retooled coaching staff, including new receivers coach Darrell Hazell, to implement changes for last year’s 28th-ranked group. The Vikings hope one of those changes is the emergence of last year’s top draft pick.