Slowly but surely, the Minnesota Vikings continue to build their receiving corps. Three years ago, it was perhaps the worst set of receivers in the NFL. Featuring butter fingers receiver Troy Williamson, the passing game carried with it no serious threat to opposing defenses.
Then in 2007, along came then rookie receiver Sidney Rice. The tall, swift, athletically gifted receiver has shown good pass catching skills in his brief NFL career. Unfortunately, injuries have served to slow his rise on the NFL scene. Hopefully, this year he can stay healthy and finally turn the corner into becoming a prominent threat, and league-wide household name.
Last year the Vikings added deep threat wide receiver, Bernard Berrian. His 2008, career high 20-yard-per-reception average, was second best in the league. Berrian consistantly made defenses pay for keying on the running game, with an all-time NFL record 99 yard touchdown reception, and a career high seven touchdowns. Berrian gave the offense balance, and was one reason why, after a slow start, the offense wound up averaging 26 points-per-game over the final 10 games of the season.
This year's addition, rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin, strengthens the Viking set of receivers even more. His impact has been immediate, given Sunday's 34-20 game one victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns. Harvin was used as a receiver, collecting three receptions - including his first career touchdown and Quarterback Brett Favre's first Viking touchdown - and as a "slash" back on two running plays. The two running plays each gained 11 yards, and one of Harvin's receptions was Favre's only completion that traveled more than 10 yards in the air beyond the line scrimmage. The Vikings' willingness to use this new weapon is quite apparent.
With Harvin's versatile big-play ability, combined with the big-play abilities of Berrian and Adrian Peterson - undoubtedly the game's best runner - the Viking offense can now join the defense as one of the NFL's very best. Harvin will cause defenses to have to remain honest in their approach to the Vikings, and when the Vikings finally meet defenses better than the Browns', the need to throw the ball downfield will present itself. The innovative use of Harvin will become increasingly important. Innovation of course brings us to Head Coach Brad Childress.
Since Childress' arrival in Minnesota in 2006, the words "innovation" and "Childress" rarely could be used in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. However, if the Vikings are to make it to, and eventually win the Super Bowl, it is paramount that Childress uses all of the tools in his offense's toolkit. Which of course also brings us to the curious departure of receiver Bobby Wade.
The now former Viking possession receiver, posted 54 and 53 receptions respectively in 2007 and 2008. Yet in vintage Childress fashion, Wade was dumped by the coach a week after taking a pay reduction to remain on the roster, and replaced by ex-Philadelphia Eagle receiver Greg Lewis. Lewis' six year career 127 receptions and seven touchdowns, are only slightly better than Wade's two year Viking career numbers of 107 receptions and five touchdowns. Where is the upgrade here?
Oh well, Childress' annoying penchant for bringing in marginal ex-Eagle, ex-Wisconsin Badgers, personnel continues. The steady Wade would have given the Viking set of receivers fantastic depth, but that would have made too much sense for a Childress run team. Even still, given the bevy of riches in this Viking offense, as long as the blockers up front block, can Childress even screw this up?