Last year, receiver Jarius Wright watched in street clothes on the sideline as the Vikings won their season opener in Tennessee.
Monday night was a different start for Wright. He’s still coming off the bench, but he was once again involved in the Vikings offense and making a difference. His lone catch on 15 snaps loomed large in a season-opening win against the Saints.
“Adam [Thielen] started it off,” Wright said of a three-play, 74-yard scoring drive that sparked the Vikings in the first half. “I caught one in between and [Stefon] Diggs finished it off.”
Wright gained nearly a third of his receiving total from last year (67 yards) on a laser-accurate throw from quarterback Sam Bradford. The 21-yard completion over Saints defenders set up Diggs’ 18-yard touchdown catch.
Wright was the Vikings’ primary slot receiver from 2013-2015, during which he averaged 34 catches and nearly 500 yards per season. That earned him a $2.5 million base salary, making him the second-highest paid receiver on the team this season. He’s just happy he’s getting some run again.
“It felt great just to be back in the offense,” Wright said. “I’m not a selfish guy. I don’t have to play the whole game. I just want the opportunity to make plays and help the team win.”
Waynes ‘did his job’
Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes, in his first year as a full-time starter, drew a solid review from head coach Mike Zimmer despite a couple hiccups in coverage, including a 52-yard catch by Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis in the third quarter.
“Obviously got beat on a double move, but he tackled well,” Zimmer said. “I think he had one stop fade or hitch that got converted on him on third down, other than that I thought he did his job.”
Waynes led the Vikings with 11 combined tackles.
An ‘encouraging’ sign
The Vikings haven’t had stable play at left tackle since Matt Kalil was an All-Pro in 2012. Riley Reiff, who dealt with a back injury this preseason, eased Zimmer’s worry in playing all 65 snaps against the Saints. Up next is a Steelers defense that had seven sacks in Week 1 against Cleveland.
“I thought he played well,” Zimmer said of Reiff. “He’s a fighter. I thought he did a good job in the run game and the pass game, so it was good to see and encouraging as we move forward.”
Moss, Birk, Hutchinson among HOF nominees
Former Vikings Randy Moss, Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson are among the 11 first-year eligible players to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s list of 108 modern-era nominees for the Class of 2018, the Hall announced Tuesday night.
Other former Vikings to make the list include Randall Cunningham, Rich Gannon, Herschel Walker and Keith Millard.
Selectors will trim the list to 25 semifinalists in November and 15 finalists in January. The selection committee will meet on Feb. 3 in Minneapolis, a day before Super Bowl LII, to select the class of 2018.
Other first-year eligible players on the list include Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber.
Staff writer Mark Craig contributed to this report.