How Greg Jennings Fits with the Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings needed a vertical threat, so they added one with former rival receiver Greg Jennings. As ESPN's Josina Anderson tweeted about the signing and the five-year contract, you could see the wheels turning in the minds of Vikings fans everywhere.
On the surface, it's really simple. The Vikings lacked a vertical threat in 2012. So they got Jennings to be that guy in 2013.
However, adding Jennings came with a price—trading Percy Harvin.
Perhaps not directly, but getting the cap room, making sure they weren't too heavy on contracts—those things made Jennings possible and required Harvin's departure. There was no way, as far as I could tell, that there was going to be room for both players, and once Harvin made his displeasure with—well, everything—public, the writing was on the wall.
This means not only is Jennings coming in to be the vertical threat, he's coming in to be the main weapon in the passing offense.
While he cannot directly replace Harvin—the two are too different, and Jarius Wright fits that mold—the team will work hard to get him the ball in as many ways as possible.
Of course, his primary role will be to go long and give Christian Ponder someone who can stretch the defense. He should be able to get open—this is still a team who has Adrian Peterson, so defenses will continue to stack the box.
Last year—especially with Harvin down—the Vikings lacked the weapons to take advantage of this. That wasn't so in 2013; Jennings will give the secondary something to do other than wait for Peterson just beyond the linebackers.
It works both ways. By being effective on deep passes, defenses can't sell out to stop Peterson. The key for Peterson to be successful is getting to the second level. He had to do that with some blocking and a lot of natural talent last year.
This time out, he'll need more of the same—but if Jennings is effective, Peterson will see fewer defenders. They'll have to account for someone else.
This gets him more space to hit the second level, in which case, look out defense.
Jennings will also pull defenders off Wright and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph struggled last year once teams could focus on him as the primary receiver because Harvin was injured.
Linebackers and corners got physical with him at the line and knocked him off his routes. While much of that is on him, having Jennings lined up next to him, at times, is going to pull a cornerback off him, and if Jennings runs a shorter route, perhaps, even a linebacker.
Rudolph has to get better fighting off blocks anyway, but having Jennings will help get rid of some of the trash at the line.
Jennings is used to playing with Aaron Rodgers, perhaps the best quarterback in the game today. The truth is, Ponder may be good one day, but he's not Rodgers—certainly not close right now.
While this makes life a little harder for Jennings, the reality is that his ability to make adjustments to balls in the air, his sure hands and his overall ability to make tough catches are things that will help Ponder a great deal.
This will pay off for Jennings by making the entire offense better.
Jennings is by no means a cure-all. He has to stay healthy (which the last two years hasn't been the case). He's aging, and he's never been the only receiver for an offense like this.
If he's up to the challenge, though, the benefits to the team, as well as his career, could be huge.
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