The Mankato portion of the 2016 Vikings Training Camp is now over and the squad has moved on to Cincinnati for a joint-practice with the Bengals. Many position-battle questions were answered during this two-week window, but the receiving core remains an enigma until more is learned during the four preseason games.
Last season the Vikings kept a total of six receivers on the final 53-man roster, including Mike Wallace, Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson. With an even deeper roster, combined with new talent at the receiver position, here’s how I believe the final wide receiver core will look when the roster is officially set.
X-Receivers: Charles Johnson will retain his spot as the X-receiver of the Vikings offense. After a disappointing 2015 season that was cut short due to a lingering rib-injury, it looks as if Johnson is healed and up to full-speed. At 6’2″ running a sub-4.4 40-time, Johnson, when healthy, can provide a big target for Teddy Bridgewater. If he can return to his 2014 form that saw him emerge as Bridgewater’s go-to-receiver, he could combine with Diggs to form a nice receiver tandem.
Laquon Treadwell will backup Johnson but should see the field in multiple-receiver sets. This is in no way a knock on Treadwell or what he’s done so far in the offseason. It is more about the resurgence of Johnson and his built in knowledge of the offense. If Treadwell can continue to grow and learn the offense, he may be able to overtake Johnson if he isn’t producing on the field.
Z-Receivers: Stefon Diggs leads this group as the unquestioned starter going into the regular season. After an explosive start to his rookie season, Diggs cooled off a bit towards the end of the season as opposing teams began pressing him at the line of scrimmage. If Diggs can improve on his ability to get off the line of scrimmage when being pressed, he could emerge as a pro-bowl receiver in 2016 and beyond.
Adam Thielen remains a Minnesota favorite and will almost certainly retain his position as a backup to Diggs. With his natural ability on special teams, he provides value where other receivers on the team don’t. A hard-working individual who has trained relentlessly to get where he is, Thielen has endeared himself to the coaching staff and remains an invaluable piece to the roster.
Cordarrelle Patterson will make the team and retain his position as kick returner, but what he does besides that is up for debate. In what was being described as a break-through offseason for Patterson leading up to Training Camp has now turned into another disappointment as he was unable to compete due to injury. This may very well be Patterson’s last season in purple.
Slot Receiver: Jarius Wright will be counted on as the main slot-receiver in Norv Turner’s offense. In addition to his role as slot-receiver, Wright will need to embrace the veteran leadership role among his young receiver counterparts.
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