Vikings' Training Camp Battles: Wide Receiver

When it comes to Minnesota Vikings' Training Camp, all eyes are pretty well focused on the battle at the quarterback position, as well they should be.  We've done quite a bit of looking at the QB battle ourselves, and will continue to do so as the next couple of weeks go by.  However, there are some other interesting depth chart fights taking place out there as well, and after the Summer of That One Guy, we need to take a closer look at a couple of them.

We're going to do that today, starting with the wide receiver position.  Even though the Vikings' receivers aren't elite or anything, it's pretty impressive to see how far they've evolved in terms of talent during the Childress era.  The receiver corps for Childress' first season in 2006 consisted of

-Troy Williamson
-Marcus Robinson
-Travis Taylor
-Billy McMullen
-Bethel Johnson

Man. . .compared to that group, our current receiver corps looks like Moss, Carter, and Reed, doesn't it?

In the three years Childress has been in Minnesota, he's only kept five receivers on the roster.  If that's the case this year, and there hasn't been any indication given to think that it won't be, then it's going to make for some interesting decisions when the final cuts are made.  Cutting Aundrae Allison a few days ago may have helped a little bit, but there's still going to be a log jam.

The way I see it, there are three receivers in camp right now that are absolute, 100% locks to be on the roster on 13 September in Cleveland.  I don't think anybody questions whether or not Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, or Sidney Rice are going to make the team.  Honestly, those will probably be the top 3 guys on the depth chart, provided that Rice can stay healthy for more than five consecutive minutes.  The Vikings currently have ten receivers in camp, which means. . .in theory. . .that those remaining seven guys are competing for two roster spots.  In reality, however, I think there are only three or four guys that are competing for those spots, while the rest are just camp bodies.

 

The Kid With All the Buzz

Since the off-season workouts began, the raves have come from all corners about second-year man Jaymar Johnson.  Former Viking great Cris Carter worked out with Johnson (among others) at his receiving camp, and had nothing but good things to say about the 6', 185-pound speedster from Jackson State.

"You could tell that he went to a school that didn't have a sophisticated passing attack," Carter said of Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick out of Jackson (Miss.) State last year. "But he has phenomenal quickness and speed. Phenomenal. And his hands are better than you would think, from a guy that fast."

"He could start for the Vikings," said Carter, now an ESPN analyst.

Coach Childress also said that Johnson might be the hardest working guy on the team, based on the progress he's made since being the Vikings' sixth-round selection in 2008 and spending the year on the practice squad.

The scouting report on Johnson tells us that he's got outstanding speed and quickness, as Carter noted, has pretty decent hands, and runs pretty good routes.  The big knock on him was his size, but he's added almost 20 pounds since last season, so it doesn't appear that's going to be an issue any more.  It will be interesting to see how the Vikings use him in 2008, because I have a feeling we're going to be hearing his name a lot.

The Guy Whose Job Might Not Be As Secure As I Originally Thought

I'll be honest with you. . .I think that a lot of fans have given Bobby Wade a raw deal since the Vikings signed him as a free agent before the 2007 season.  The guy has led the team in receptions both years he's been a Viking, and while he's not super spectacular or anything, the guy has been a fairly steady, level-headed presence for this Vikings team.  Should Bobby Wade be a starting wide receiver in the National Football League?  No, probably not.  Is he as bad as a lot of people would have you believe he is?  Certainly not.

The problem that Wade is going to run into this season is attempting to figure out where, exactly, he fits into the roster.  His ideal spot is as a slot receiver, but Percy Harvin will almost certainly take a big part of that role away, and he has to watch his back for another guy on this list that I'll get to momentarily.  He could also possibly fit in as a punt returner, but the Vikings appear to be grooming both Harvin and Jaymar Johnson to take on those responsibilities.  He's simply not big enough to line up full-time on the outside, and even if he was, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice have those spots locked down.

Before the off-season started, I was certain that Wade was going to be a lock to make the team again.  Now, with the off-season having gone the way it has. . .I think he's about a 50/50 proposition to be here on Opening Weekend.

The Wild Card

Having come to the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of West Virginia, Darius Reynaud didn't see a whole lot of action in 2008, but showed some promise in the limited playing time he did get.  He averaged 25.1 yards on 8 kickoff returns, including a big 49-yarder against the Bears in Week 13.  Reynaud has pretty good speed and quickness, and while not being real tall. . .he's listed at 5'9", and that might be a bit generous. . .he's got some pretty good bulk for a guy that height, weighing in at right around 200 pounds.

Word has been coming out of Mankato that Reynaud has been taking some snaps in the Loki Wildcat formation for the Vikings, which adds a little bit to his versatility.  He got to the team last year in Week 12, and he appears to be over the injuries that limited him to three appearances in 2008.  If he can stay healthy, he's could very easily find himself on the team as a kick return specialist, at the very least.

The "Return Guy"

Glenn Holt joined the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2006  He spent last year returning kickoffs and punts for the Bengals and signed with the Vikings during the off-season.  He hasn't shown much as a receiver at the NFL level. . .Holt has just 20 catches in three years, and 16 of those 20 came in 2007. . .but he has shown a little bit of spark on special teams, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2007.  However, since it appears that his place in the NFL is strictly on special teams, I'm not sure if he's going to be able to latch on to the roster, particularly when the Vikings have some younger and more versatile options at their disposal.

(Oh, and I put "return guy" in quotes up there because, quite frankly, I think Glenn Holt has "Maurice Hicks" written all over him.  No, that's not a positive.)

The Rest

The other three receivers currently in the Vikings' employ are Vinny Perretta, Bobby Williams, and Nick Moore.

Perretta's claim to fame, at this point, is throwing the TD pass in overtime of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl that set up the "Statue of Liberty" play that current Viking Ian Johnson ran into the end zone for a Boise State victory, allowing Johnson to propose to his cheerleader girlfriend in the end zone after the upset.

(Man, if my old high school English teacher was dead, that sentence would have him spinning in his grave.)

Perretta's father, Ralph, was an NFL lineman for six years with the San Diego Chargers.  Unfortunately for Perretta, I have a feeling that that's all the closer he's going to get to being in the NFL this year.  He might be worth a practice squad flier, but I just don't see him being able to make the climb onto the big club, barring something strange happening.

Nick Moore, out of Toledo, is the younger brother of New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore.  Like Perretta, I just think there are too many obstacles in his way to making the squad this year.

Bobby Williams is a 6'3", 195-pound receiver out of North Alabama.  And, with that, you now know every bit as much about Bobby Williams as I do.  He doesn't even have a picture on the Vikings' official website.  Something tells me that they won't have to do a lot of looking around for one.

Gonzo's Projection

As I've already stated, Berrian, Rice, and Harvin are in.  I think that Jaymar Johnson makes the squad as well. . .after all, if Cris Carter tells you that the kid can play, the kid can play.

The fifth (and possibly final) spot?  Man. . .I don't know.  At this point, I think you'd almost have to flip a coin between Wade and Reynaud.  Or maybe Childress will be compelled to keep six wide receivers this year, although I'm not sure which position he'd sacrifice at in order to make that happen.  In any case, the battle for those last two receiver spots should be a very interesting one, and definitely something non-QB related to talk about through the course of camp.

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