After three long weeks of inactivity, Jerome Simpson returns to the field Sunday to make his debut with the Minnesota Vikings.
Get excited, Vikings fans. Minnesota’s No. 1 downfield option has returned.
But don’t get too excited.
The Vikings battle the Detroit Lions on Sunday in Week 4 play.
Detroit is allowing its opposition to throw for an average of 250.7 yards per game, 20th best. It has also allowed five passing touchdowns, ninth most.
Minnesota isn’t battling a juggernaut of aerial defense. That’s not the problem. That’s the good news.
The problem is that this is Simpson’s first game of the season, and the Vikings' passing game hasn’t demonstrated the ability to do much beyond 15 yards, which is where Simpson is expected to excel.
Christian Ponder, who has completed an amazing 70.1 percent of his passes (second best in the NFL), has completed one pass for over 21 yards and is 1-of-5 on such attempts. He’s attempted one pass for between 31 and 40 yards. It was incomplete.
At this stage in his career, Ponder isn’t a consistent downfield threat as a passer. He excels on passes within 20 yards.
That doesn’t mean Simpson can’t affect the Minnesota offense positively this week or beyond. He showed the ability to make plays with the ball after the catch as he did against the Buffalo Bills in the preseason.
It’s also important to remember that he hasn’t had the extensive work with Ponder that other receivers have had. He only played in the first two preseason games before sitting out the final two weeks and hasn't practiced during his suspension.
That means this week has been Simpson’s first activities with the team in quite some time. The Vikings insist they want to get him involved this week, and they will. But his contributions won’t be as grandiose as fans may hope.
I believe in Simpson. I wrote about him earlier this year as a sneaky fantasy football option. But all that isn't going to come to fruition this week.
Simpson will be a great asset to the 2012 Minnesota offense. In time. For now, expectations need to be kept in check.