By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings think they have the answer to what ails its deep passing attack. Jerome Simpson has the speed and length to do that.
When the Vikings agreed to sign the 26-year-old former second round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina in April, they knew that a suspension was likely. The Vikings had to weigh the risks and rewards. It ultimately decided that the games he was going to be eligible to play would be better than not having him. When looking at the Vikings roster and receiver group, it is understandable.
When the contract was finally signed, it was a win-win for the Vikings. It is a low-risk one-year deal worth $2 million.
He can fly and has height. He is probably the fastest player on the team and stands 6-feet-2-inches tall. It is hard for any defensive back to defend his combination of size and speed. Christian Ponder should be able to just heave the ball downfield and let him run under it.
He has a lot of potential to be exactly what he Vikings need. The Vikings raved all training camp and preseason about his ability and what he is going to do for the offense. The Vikings do not have a player that can consistently go down the field and force defensive backs to run with him. Michael Jenkins is an underneath possession receiver that moves. Percy Harvin turns short routes into long gains, but will not force defensive backs to back up. Devin Aromashodu is the most likely deep threat, but he is not consistent enough to loosen a defense. Stephen Burton is still working out his niche, but it appears he is going to be more of an underneath receiver. To sum up, the faster receivers don’t have the size and the bigger receivers don’t have the speed to stretch the field.
He should be well up to date on the game planning. Even though he was suspended, Simpson was able to sit in team meetings. The only things he could not do were practice or play in games. He has not been able to do it yet, but he should be comfortable with the practice process and schedule as the week leads up to the game.
There could be too much hype to this. The Vikings have played him up pretty high. Head coach Leslie Frazier tempered things a little bit this week by saying that Simpson will need to get used to contact and get caught back up to the speed of the game. There is likely to be a small learning period as he and Ponder adjust to playing together.
Will his return be a disruption to the flow of the Vikings offense? Simpson has yet to play a down for the Vikings. He spent last season with the Cincinnati Bengals and is in his first year with the Vikings. He and Ponder began developing some chemistry as the preseason came to a close. The Vikings have moved the ball well through three games and Ponder has been efficient in the short and intermediate passing game. The general consensus is that adding the dimensions that Simpson brings will make the offense better. Exactly how Simpson fits into the offense has yet to be seen.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.