The Minnesota Vikings released their first depth chart of the season in preparation for Friday's preseason game in San Francisco, and while there few surprises to the wide receivers unit, the recent injury to rookie WR Greg Childs keeps the unit in a state of flux.
Last year's statistical leader at WR, Percy Harvin, is the clear number one and will start at the or slot position, while the team's biggest free agent acquisition, WR Jerome Simpson is the number one flanker -- ahead of last year's starters Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu. Childs was listed as the fourth flanker and was expected by some to move up the chart to replace Simpson while he serves a suspension the first three games. But Childs season-ending knee injuries on Saturday night have changed things.
Jenkins has been getting more first-team reps in practice in place of Simpson, sugesting he will also get most of the snaps during games. But that's not certain, Jenkins says.
“Naw, that's just different personnel packages calling for whoever to be in the game,” said Jenkins. “So it's not really looking towards the future like that.”
Regardless, Jenkins, a nine-year veteran, has been seen diving for passes in camp, and while he says he's just trying to make a play, he could be really trying to regain his starting job. Now with Childs gone, that becomes a stronger possibility during Simpson's absence.
No. 3 flanker Aromashodu may still have something to say about it. He was signed in the offseason to a one-year contract, and has looked very good in camp. He denies being motivated by the fact he is only signed for one season (saying he is happy for the opportunity to play in the NFL), but coach Leslie Frazier has noticed the improvement.
“Devin's much, much improved,” said Frazier. “One of the things we wanted to see out of Devin was improved route running and showing that he can make those hard catches on a consistent basis. With his length and his speed, we like some of the things he's able to do, and he's beginning to show that more and more at practice.”
While rookie Jarius Wright is ranked third behind the rock solid-Harvin (and Stephen Burton) in the slot position and working on kick returning, the wild card of the corps may be second-year man Burton. Burton missed some valuable time with injury during camp, but when he returned to the field he got plenty of opportunities to shine at both the X and Y receiver positions.
“Stephen is coming along,” said Frazier. “He missed those early days with his toe, but we're seeing some progress. He showed some things in the OTA's. He showed some things in the limited time he got a season ago that he has the potential to be a factor in our offense. We're hoping that he'll keep coming.”
When Simpson returns from suspension, he should start with Harvin, and Jenkins will join them on three-wide packages. The backups will make an impact (and we should start to see that Friday night against the 49ers), but it's a shame that the biggest potential game-changer to the status quo — Greg Childs — s no longer in the picture shaking things up.