With Greg Jennings running routes elsewhere and speedy deep threat Mike Wallace having replaced him on the roster, the Vikings will be looking for someone to take over for Jennings in the slot in their three-wide sets.
The frontrunner is Jarius Wright, who made some plays out of the slot last season. He has been the slot guy with the first team since the spring.
“I do think I’ll get a chance to play in the slot more this year,” Wright said. “Greg Jennings was in the slot last year and we don’t have him anymore. Mike Wallace, I’m not going to call him ‘just an outside receiver,’ but he’s a premier receiver who can play outside very, very well.”
Last season, Jennings ran 66.8 percent of his routes out of the slot, per Pro Football Focus. That was the 14th-highest percentage in the NFL. With 38 catches for 495 yards and two scores, he did most of his damage there.
While Jennings ran 377 routes out of the slot, Wright ran just 85. He was efficient, though, with eight catches for 130 yards in that role. His 1.53 yards per route run from the slot were significantly higher than Jennings’ 1.31.
“The best things that Jarius did were when he was in the slot,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We keep working him outside but we know he has big value for us in the slot, as well.”
Wright’s short-area quicks and after-the-catch ability should suit him well in his new role. But he said he has focused on getting stronger because he will have to deal with linebackers and safeties on the inside. He at times will also have to block those bigger defenders on running plays.
“I definitely welcome it. I definitely think I can be a slot receiver also,” said Wright, who had 588 receiving yards in 2014. “I’ve been outside a lot with the Vikings, but I can definitely transfer over and play the slot.”