Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vikings Off-Season Report: WR's

What Happened in 2005: One word for 2005 Vikings was inconsistency. The entire offensive unit struggled, often a result of constantly changing lineups due to injuries. The effects show in the receiving stats. No receiver had more than Travis Taylor’s 604 yards. Nine receivers had more than 20 receptions, but no more than TE Jermaine Wiggins’ 69. Even with the Randy Moss trade, the receiver talent appeared healthy. Injuries kept Kevin Burleson from matching his breakout 2004, Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson, originally cast as compliments were forced to become number one targets, and rookie Troy Williamson progressed slowly. Marcus Robinson did emerge as a red zone target for Brad Johnson. Free Agent pickup Koren Robinson provided a deep threat, but took a while to integrate into the offense.

Obviously the lack of running game, Brad Johnson’s fondness of the short game and a porous line all contributed to the receiving corps’ poor numbers.

Where they stand now: Koren Robinson is a free agent, and one of the Vikings’ top off season priorities. He is the most talented receiver, runs well after the catch and obviously made the Pro Bowl as a returner. Historically wide receivers figure things out in the second year, good news for Williamson. His explosiveness was evident when he got the ball, but often struggled with routes and also was demoted after faking an injury. It is the explosiveness that makes him attractive. The Vikings should try to mimic how the Panthers use Steve Smith, giving Williamson touches on screens, end-arounds and deep balls.

Expect Burleson, a restricted free agent, to rise closer to his 2004 form. Even without the injuries Burleson seemed to get lost in the shuffle last year and couldn’t jell with Culpepper or Johnson. If everyone is healthy Taylor and Marcus Robinson combine as an above average fourth receiver.

The Vikings also have prospects Chris Jones and Kelvin Kight in NFL Europe. Barring miraculous improvement, both are doubtful to see many passes in NFL America.

The Plan: The Vikings will almost certainly resign Koren Robinson, who likely ends up a starter. The team is pretty much set on the personnel, with the possible exception of a return specialist. With new coach Brad Childress installing a West Coast offense, there will be a learning curve, especially for Williamson.

Unless something goes wrong and Koren isn’t resigned, don’t expect much movement in the offseason.

Previous Vikings Off-Season Reports: QB RB