It's almost easy to forget about Greg Jennings sometimes because he's so consistent. He's always there, running the right routes, making the right reads, saying the right things. He has been a mainstay of the NFC North for the better part of a decade. He's Greg Jennings--you know what you're going to get out of him.
But after watching him at Vikings Training Camp Thursday, it seems like you might be getting even more Greg Jennings this season. Although he has a hodgepodge of three quarterbacks throwing to him in camp, he seems more comfortable wearing the purple and gold than he did last season. He's gliding through routes more fluidly and making every catch look easier this time around--which is saying something since he was doing that pretty well in 2013.
He even handles the media with ease. After the Thursday afternoon practice concluded, Jennings chatted with a group of reporters (including myself, who even got a few questions in) while smiling and joking around in his usual easy-going manner. Jennings definitely works for everything he gets, but it sure doesn't look like it.
Jennings started by saying he likes the progress the team is making early in camp. "Guys are picking up the schemes both offensively and defensively and the special teams unit. We're able to execute. We'll have both up and down days, but we're getting after one another." He also likes the direction Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner is taking the team.
One thing Norv does is he's going to expose what everyone does well...he's going to put us individually in positions where we can get the ball with our best routes as he calls them or situations where there are mismatches against the defense that bode well for us as individuals. As a unit we have to continue to execute and continue to make whatever play is called and make it work.
While the Turner offense is obviously new, Jennings isn't being asked to do anything he hasn't already done in his eight year NFL career. When asked if the defense was catching up to the offense, Jennings joked "Absolutely not. They suck!" But seriously folks:
Guys have put a lot of time in during OTAs and minicamps and the offseason program, learning the offense to understand what it is we're trying to get done...but you're right, the defense is starting to do a better job of communicating and making it difficult for us to have success.
Jennings commented on how the more physical play of Zimmer's defense is a "smart concept" and has made it that much tougher for the receiving corps to accomplish what they want to do.
Adrian Peterson has stated that the offense will be much more unpredictable this year and Jennings agrees. He said we'll still get a heavy dose of AP, but Turner's offense will be more balanced. "I think you can still be a physical football team and be able to throw the ball."
Jennings realizes he isn't the only talented receiver on this Vikings team. He thinks the sky is the limit for second year teammate Cordarrelle Patterson. In fact, maybe even higher:
I would say the sky is the limit, but the stars...I mean, there's no ceiling to his potential. There really isn't. If he's willing to put in the time, the potential is there. He has everything you need. He's starting to mature as a player, as an individual; so his success is going to shoot straight through the roof. I told him this, and maybe it's a little premature but: "At some point, I'm going to be able to tell my kids that I played with Cordarrelle Patterson."
High praise? High praise. Jennings also had a lot of positive things to say about Jarius Wright:
Number one, he's a smart player. That was the first thing I noticed about Jarius. He carries himself as a mature veteran. And his speed--I almost have to tell him to slow down sometimes because he runs everything almost too fast. But in this game speed kills and he has that. He's a deep threat, he can play all positions. So he's a huge asset to our ball club.
Of course Jennings had to rib his teammate a little as well, joking that Wright seems to have more aches & pains than any other receiver and perhaps his short, choppy strides make him look faster than he really is.
And Jennings knows about aches & pains. At 30 years old he isn't a spring chicken, so he stressed how much preventative work goes into his training regimen. He explained how he doesn't want to be reactive so he's always looking for the best way to prepare himself for the season with the Vikings training staff. "You can't just come out here and rip & run anymore. You have to make sure you're stretching, you're doing the little things."
While unpredictability in Turner's offensive scheme is a welcome sight, not having a definitive starting quarterback can make it tough for a wide receiver. I asked Jennings how he deals with building a rapport with all three quarterbacks with the situation currently up in the air.
Just doing my job. Making sure that I stay focused on what I need to do. [The quarterback situation] will play itself out. I can't control what quarterback is back there. All I can control is what 15 is doing when he's on the football field. If [the receivers] are doing our job for all three quarterbacks, no matter who's at the helm under center, we'll make whoever's throwing us the ball look good...my opinion doesn't matter a bit. Whatever they decide, that's in their hands. Like I said, I can only focus on myself and what's going on in my room. Outside of that, I'll let everybody else handle their room.
If only choosing a starting quarterback was as easy as Greg Jennings running an out route.