The Runner Sports

Training Camp Battles: Vikings’ Third Receiver

Look around, and all you will see is Instagram posts about vacations on the beach. Virtually nothing is happening in the NFL as teams squeeze in those last-minute trips and take advantage of the waning free time. As such, these are the times that are mostly used for predicting roster spots and examining camp battles. All 32 teams have quite a bit of intrigue heading into Training Camp, especially as veterans try to hold off the high-profile rookies.

Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans, the Minnesota Vikings have a battle taking place on the offensive side of the ball. You see, the offense has been struggling to find a consistent number one receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson displayed flashes, but struggled with route running and eventually signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. Charles Johnson had a couple of big games but essentially disappeared after one season. Other free agents like Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson had some solid moments during their time with the Vikings, they just didn’t truly capture that big role like the coaches preferred.

Luckily, Minnesota did find two stars in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen that shared the role of number one receiver in 2016 and nearly reached 1,000 yards each. However, the third receiver spot is far from filled. There are multiple options in Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright, Moritz Bohringer, etc., but none have truly taken hold of the job. While less of a story than the Buccaneers running back situation, the receiver battle is still critical considering that the offense truly needs to make improvements. Minnesota’s defense is ready to win now, and the offense needs to keep up its end of the bargain. So who will take the third receiver spot?

Laquon Treadwell

Last season’s first-round draft pick, Laquon Treadwell was one of the highest rated wide receivers of the 2016 class. The former Ole Miss star was often compared to DeAndre Hopkins heading into the draft based on his size, acrobatic catches, and ability to make game-breaking plays even without boasting top-end speed. Treadwell was supposed to take these tools and become a major target for Sam Bradford, but he played primarily on special teams and only caught one pass during the season for 15 yards.

Given Mike Zimmer’s history of holding back rookies (corner Trae Waynes barely played during his rookie season), the lack of Treadwell in 2016 isn’t alarming. In fact, this extra time on the bench should have actually served as a better learning opportunity for the rookie receiver so that he would be prepared to make an impact early in year two. Plus, Treadwell has an added advantage in that he won’t have to be the number one target in Minnesota. Both Diggs and Thielen share that role, so Treadwell should be able to work as a secondary option that dominates in the red zone.

Michael Floyd

A former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, Michael Floyd displayed flashes of greatness with the Cardinals in 2015 with big plays and key blocking. Unfortunately, his 2016 campaign started out poorly with a drop in catches and yards and culminated with a DUI arrest. The Cardinals cut ties with Floyd, who actually ended up winning a championship with the New England Patriots before hitting free agency and signing with the Vikings. This relationship got off to a rocky start as Floyd failed an alcohol test and spent a day in jail. Interestingly, Floyd contends that the positive test came after he only drank Kombucha tea while staying up to watch movies.

Still only 27 years old, Floyd boasts enough talent to be a major contributor for the Vikings’ offense, but his tenure is already in danger. Floyd will start the season with a four-game suspension, during which another receiver could take his job. He also practiced behind Laquon Treadwell during OTAs. Additionally, head coach Mike Zimmer has stated that he will cut Floyd if the Kombucha story turns out to be a lie.

At this point, it’s unlikely that Floyd will make the Vikings final roster, let alone earn a starting job.

Jarius Wright

A five-year veteran, Jarius Wright has been an unknown workhorse throughout his entire career. He has only topped 500 yards once and never started more than seven games in a season, but Wright has been a constant weapon. Go back to 2014 and watch his 87-yard touchdown catch-and-run to defeat the New York Jets in overtime. He caught a bubble screen, broke a tackle, and outran the Jets’ defenders all the way to the end zone. It was a spectacular play that didn’t make a lot of headlines because Wright is a true role player.

In all honesty, Wright could actually take over that third receiver spot this season if Treadwell still isn’t ready to start and Floyd is cut. The Vikings have a couple of rookie receivers that could see snaps as well, but Wright has been in Minnesota and understands the system. Wright won’t make headlines, he will just make plays.

Verdict

Right now, the third receiver job is Treadwell’s to lose. He has the pedigree of a high draft pick, along with the expectations that come with. He should be primed to start after sitting on the bench, and Zimmer will want to see what he brings to the offense. Sure, Floyd could take some snaps away after his suspension ends –provided he’s still on the team– but he doesn’t seem to have the same upside of Treadwell.

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John Newby

A Minnesota Vikings fan from Oregon who writes about the Houston Texans and discusses nerdy topics.
Quite fond of my wife, video games, and Blue Heelers.
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