If the preseason was any indication — and there is reason to believe that it is a pretty good one, actually — each of Teddy Bridgewater’s regular targets better stay ready.
In the Tampa Bay game, it was slot receiver Jarius Wright who did the most damage, catching two passes for 50 yards. Against Oakland, wide receiver Charles Johnson was the go-to guy with four catches, including a chain-moving grab on fourth down. In Dallas, it was wideout Mike Wallace who made the big play on a 39-yard bomb.
So who is going to be Bridgewater’s go-to guy? It will depend on the matchup.
“Our coaches always say when you’re playing in this system, don’t get bored,” Bridgewater said. “If a play is called for the same guy to get the ball five times in a row and he is open five times in a row, throw it to him. It’s a system where everyone is going to get their touches and everyone is going to have individual success, and the guys understand that.”
And that’s probably a good thing for this deep wide receiver group, which will bring youth, speed and skill to the offense. But also plenty of uncertainty.
Johnson, whom offensive coordinator Norv Turner called the best receiver on the roster before the Wallace trade in March, became Bridgewater’s go-to guy down the stretch last season. But the former Green Bay draft pick who was signed off the Cleveland practice squad must prove he has staying power.
Wallace scored 15 touchdowns in his two seasons in Miami, but he never topped 1,000 yards there and wore out his welcome, which led to him being made available.
And then there is Cordarrelle Patterson, the 2013 first-round pick who lost his starting job to Johnson and had an uneven preseason while trying to get back into the mix.
Still, the Vikings can run six deep at the position when you throw in fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs, one of the biggest stars of the team’s preseason, and Adam Thielen.
“Some of the guys we brought in the past couple of years like Cordarrelle, Stefon Diggs, Mike Wallace … they are guys that can play and go get the ball. Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen are guys like that, too. So we have a great group and we should be really good,” said Wright, the fourth-year receiver who is now the most tenured of the group.
The Vikings have stuck with the same trio, though, throughout training camp and the preseason. Johnson and Wallace start in the base offense. And when the Vikings go three-wide, which they will do often this season, Wright usually comes in to run routes out of the slot.
Patterson, who disappointed with 33 catches for only 384 yards last season, has only seen a handful of plays with the starters this summer, and they were trick plays.
One common thread among this group is speed. Wallace is considered one of the fastest players in the NFL. And each of the six wide receivers on the roster were clocked at under 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine or their respective pro days.
“I think we can put together a pretty good relay team with this group,” Turner said in Mankato. “They all run awfully well.”
The Vikings might lack an elite No. 1 wideout, such as a Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson or Antonio Brown. But from Bridgewater down to his pass-catchers, they feel their strength in numbers will help them move the ball through the air just fine.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys on our roster right now that can contribute on Sundays,” Johnson said. “That’s something that’s really big for us.”