Unless you live under a rock, you know that the Minnesota Vikings waived incumbent wide receiver Bernard Berrian this past Tuesday. Although Berrian’s release was seven weeks too late, it’s still better late than never.
Unfortunately, especially with the rib injury to fellow wide receiver Percy Harvin, there’s going to be a gap in production with Berrian now permanently out of the lineup. The question for the Vikings now is who will step up and become a productive pass-catcher for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and the Minnesota offense.
Wide receiver Michael Jenkins and tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph are clearly top targets for the Vikings and will continue to give Ponder options down the field. Three players and an injured Harvin aren’t going to cut it, though.
The first option for the Vikings who could become a productive option on offense is wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.
Brought over from the Chicago Bears this offseason, Aromashodu has quickly inherited Berrian’s role as the Vikings’ deep threat in the passing attack. Although he only has five receptions on the season, he’s averaging 26.6 yards per catch and is the only player besides Jenkins and Shiancoe who has a receiving touchdown for the Vikings this season. He may not be the go-to receiver that the Vikings so desperately need, but he has potential as an occasional playmaker.
The next option is Greg Camarillo, another veteran in the Vikings’ receiving corps.
Another deep threat type of receiver, Camarillo was brought over before the beginning of the 2010 season after Sidney Rice was deactivated due to hip surgery. His production, however, wasn’t as high as the team had hoped for as he hauled in only 20 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown. So far this season, Camarillo has three receptions (all in the last two weeks) for 58 yards. Although Camarillo’s stay in Minnesota has been a bit disappointing, there is one factor that favors him: Camarillo and Ponder are buddies. During last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers, they connected twice for big catches that kept the Vikings upset hopes alive. The symmetry that they have could lead to bigger production on Camarillo’s part.
The next and newest option is Stephen Burton, a rookie seventh-round pick who got moved up to the active roster from the practice squad after Berrian’s release.
Coming out of college, Burton was seen as a huge project. Despite his tremendous speed and athleticism, he was still very raw as a wide receiver. To make matters worse, he hailed from small-school West Texas A&M, which made scouts wonder how hard it would be for him to adapt to the NFL’s elite level of play. After the Vikings drafted him in the seventh round, Burton struggled to impress during training camp and the preseason. His potential, however, earned him a spot on the practice squad. The season is seven weeks old and he’ll finally be getting his first opportunity to prove that he is NFL worthy.
The Vikings’ other young option at wide out is Emmanuel Arceneaux, who is currently a practice squad player.
Originally from Alcorn State, Arceneaux was signed prior to the beginning of the NFL Lockout after a stellar year with the CFL’s BC Lions. Throughout the preseason, he showed signs of promise but still seemed to be adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Much like Burton, there’s still plenty of potential left to be unlocked with Arceneaux. If Burton struggles right off the bat, don’t be surprised to see Arceneaux step in and put his talents on display.
Neither of the young wide receivers have seen the field during the regular season, but had some exposure during the preseason.
The final option for the Vikings is Kerry Taylor, who was just signed to the practice squad in the wake of Berrian’s severance. After going undrafted, he has spent time with both the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers but hasn’t been able to make the cut. Although I don’t expect him to be much of presence apart from a practice squad body, there’s always that possibility that he could be a talent that flies under the radar until he lands on the right team.
One way or another, the Vikings aren’t always going to be able to depend on Harvin, Jenkins, Shiancoe and Rudolph to be the only pass-catchers for Ponder. The offense needs to find some more feasible weapons as the season progresses so that they can be better prepared for 2012 when Ponder will really get his opportunity to lead the team.
Ponder has already proven that he has the arm, poise and mobility to get the job done for the Vikings at the quarterback spot. A quarterback, however, is only as effective as the weapons in his arsenal. Whether they discover that one of their youngsters is a playmaker or they bring in some fresh meat next year via the draft, the Vikings need to reload if they hope to have Ponder shoot up defenses in 2012.