In the first three weeks of the 2012 regular season, only two teams in the National Football League have not had a single play from scrimmage of 30 yards or longer. Those two teams met last week at the Metrodome when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 24-13. The Vikings' longest pass play of the season went for 29 yards on a perfect toss to the sideline from Christian Ponder to Kyle Rudolph in the opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Vikings are hoping that things will be a little different this Sunday at Ford Field, when they welcome free agent acquisition Jerome Simpson to the lineup for the first time this season. Simpson was forced to miss the first three games of the 2012 season due to a suspension, but has been brought back to the team as of this afternoon, and he will presumably be in the starting lineup across from Percy Harvin when the Vikings take the field against the Detroit Lions.
Simpson was all the talk in Minnesota this pre-season, as he and Christian Ponder seemed to have a little bit of chemistry developing. With the Minnesota offense having been lacking in explosive plays thus far in 2012 (though still pretty successful), folks in Minneapolis haven't been this excited about a guy named Jerome since Morris Day and the Time were in their heyday.
And there's good reason to be excited about Jerome Simpson getting back into the Minnesota lineup. He's not a superstar receiver by any means, but he's shown the talent to get the job done before. After spending much of the 2010 season inactive, Simpson got a chance to play at the end of a lost season for the Cincinnati Bengals with both halves of the Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco circus on the bench. In those two games, he caught 18 passes for 247 yards and three scores. That led to him getting more playing time in 2011, and he responded with 50 catches in 16 games, including a long of 84 yards. Simpson has three games of 100+ yards in 2011, and averaged 14.5 yards/catch.
Simpson probably isn't going to see a lot of double coverage with the Vikings. After all, teams still have to be aware of the presence of Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph is becoming a bigger and more reliable target every week, and defenses always have to be aware of where Percy Harvin is at. This could open things up for Simpson to improve on his career-best numbers from 2011 (50 catches, 725 yards, 4 TD) despite missing the first three games of the season. However, Christian Ponder has vowed to continue being smart with the football, as he has been all season, despite the addition of Simpson to the lineup.
"We're not going to try to force things," Ponder said Wednesday when asked about Simpson's return. "We're going to use Jerome to try to get downfield and, obviously, he's got the speed to do it. Try to do some things to get the ball downfield. Again, we want to make big plays but we're not going to force them."
The Vikings' offense has already shown marked improvement over last year through the first three games of the 2012 season. If Simpson can give them just a little bit of an added dimension, it could mean big things for this football team.