Two plays from the Patriots regular season finale against the Dolphins showed just how newly-signed Michael Floyd can help the Vikings.
Floyd, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver, caught a Tom Brady slant pass at the eight-yard line and barreled through five Dolphins defenders for the touchdown. He then upended an unsuspecting Dolphins cornerback to help spring Julian Edelman for a 77-yard touchdown.
“I think it just gives everyone confidence that he can establish a role for himself and that we can rely and count on him when it matters,” Brady told WEEI after the game.
The Vikings have been looking for that kind of physical receiver since they drafted both Cordarrelle Patterson (2013) and Laquon Treadwell (2016) before pursuing Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason. They’ve since supersized skill positions by adding Floyd (6-3), running back Latavius Murray (6-3), tight end Bucky Hodges (6-6) and tight end Nick Truesdell (6-7).
But Floyd’s on-field inconsistency showed in the Patriots’ next game.
In the playoff opener vs. Houston, Floyd saw a healthy 44 snaps, but he caught just one pass for nine yards while he was the target on one Brady interception and nearly another pick. Floyd was also flagged for offensive pass interference. He then watched the rest of the Patriots’ Super Bowl run from the sideline.
Overall, Floyd’s fifth NFL season was a disappointment even before his DUI arrest and release from the Cardinals, who drafted him with a 2012 first-round pick out of Notre Dame.
Floyd played 13 games and finished near the bottom of the league in metrics like ‘receiving rating’ (72.1, 80th), or QB rating while targeted, drop rate (13.2%, 85th) and deep-pass receiving (25%, 62nd), according to Pro Football Focus.
His most recent play, and likely suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, are why the Vikings got Floyd on a low-risk, ‘prove-it’ deal. Under the current terms of his house arrest, he can’t come to Minnesota until June.
“I have been training extremely hard this offseason in addition to taking responsibility and paying the consequences for my mistake,” Floyd said in a statement Wednesday.
Floyd and the Vikings can be a match if he refocuses and finds a similar groove that helped him net at least 800 receiving yards and five touchdowns in three seasons (2013-2015) for the Cardinals. While Floyd drew attention as a vertical threat for Carson Palmer, he showed with broken tackles in New England how he can benefit a quick-passing game like the one Pat Shurmur has established in Minnesota.
The Vikings need a big-bodied difference maker who can claw his way through confined spaces. Only one team — the Jets — scored fewer points per red-zone trip last season than Minnesota, according to Football Outsiders.