EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Devin Aromashodu cut in on a crossing pattern from his spot on the left side of the formation, took a pass from Donovan McNabb and used his speed to turn the corner for a 60-yard gain.
It’s the kind of play that has become common in today’s pass-happy NFL, but has been all-too rare for the Minnesota Vikings through the first five games of the season.
“He’s given us a spark, for sure,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday. “The emergence of Devin has helped us achieve some chunks and we’re always looking for chunks of yardage.”
Now, more than ever.
The Vikings rank 31st in the league in passing offense, as McNabb struggles to connect with his receivers, especially on plays down the field. Buried on the depth chart at the start of the season behind more established veterans, Aromashodu only had one catch for five yards in the first three weeks.
But with Bernard Berrian unable to generate any big plays as the incumbent deep threat, the coaches started to look more toward Aromashodu, who was signed away from Chicago in the offseason. McNabb hooked up with him on a 34-yard touchdown pass two weeks ago in Kansas City, then hit him for the 60-yarder last week against Arizona in the longest play from scrimmage for the offense this year.
“Devin’s had two the last two games and we’d love to build on that and keep featuring him as often as we can,” Musgrave said.
Clinging to life at 1-4, the Vikings will likely need him again on Sunday night in Chicago, the city Aromashodu called home for the previous three years.
The fifth-year receiver has just four catches this season, but they have gone for 120 yards, which is third on the receiving corps. The production has helped force Aromashodu into the action, at the expense of Berrian.
Berrian restructured his contract to stay in Minnesota this year, but has just two catches for 37 yards on the season. He was open on a couple of deep balls in the first two weeks, but McNabb missed him both times and it’s been all downhill from there.
Berrian was deactivated last week, a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. He has complained about not getting the ball enough and hasn’t been able to do much with it when McNabb has looked his way.
Meanwhile, Aromashodu waited quietly and patiently for his chance, just like he had to do in college at Auburn and in the NFL with Indianapolis and Chicago before coming to the Vikings.
“You can’t really rush anything,” Aromashodu said. “You just have to be patient, do your job and just be ready when things happen. It’s just something I’ve grown to get used to, being patient and letting things happen.”
Aromashodu appeared to be solidifying himself as a legitimate NFL receiver toward the end of 2009, when he caught four TDs for the Bears in the final four games of the regular season. That stretch included a career night against the Vikings, when he had 150 yards receiving and the game-winning, 39-yard touchdown catch in overtime.
Despite a strong relationship with Jay Cutler, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz reduced Aromashodu’s role last season. He caught just 10 passes for 149 yards in 14 games. He said he didn’t blame Martz because the Bears were winning, but he did welcome the change of scenery.
“I was ready for a new start, new opportunity,” he said. “I’m glad I’m here.”
The soft-spoken receiver has accepted anything the Vikings have thrown at him, including covering kicks for the first time in his career. That attitude, and the big plays, have endeared him to his new teammates.
“I’m sure he’ll have a lot of juice so we’ll try to keep him under wraps,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “I’m looking for him to have a big game against his old team so we’ll dial some stuff up and see what happens.”
Aromashodu still keeps in touch with several of his old Bears teammates, including receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. But he said he’s really looking forward to renewing acquaintances with defensive backs like Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings and showing Martz and coach Lovie Smith what they’ve been missing.
“Yeah, that would be nice to go out there and do that,” Aromashodu said quietly. “We’ll see what happens.”
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