NFL: Vikings six deep at wide receiver

By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press MANKATO -- When seven-year veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace arrived in Minnesota, he knew little about Charles Johnson. He barely had heard of Adam Thielen. Wallace was acquired by the Vikings in March fr...

Mike Wallace
Minnesota wide receiver Mike Wallace makes a fingertip catch during afternoon workouts at Vikings’ training camp July 29 at Mankato. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MANKATO - When seven-year veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace arrived in Minnesota, he knew little about Charles Johnson. He barely had heard of Adam Thielen.
Wallace was acquired by the Vikings in March from the Miami Dolphins. He had no idea then that his new team had so much depth at receiver.
“I’m a lot more impressed now than when I got here,” Wallace said at training camp. “I didn’t know much about (Minnesota’s receivers) when I got here. But I like (Johnson) more every day. Thielen is a really good football player, and he’s like your fifth or sixth guy. That’s crazy. He can play.”
If there’s one position at which the Vikings have plenty of depth, it’s wide receiver. Although Wallace is the only one on the team who has made a Pro Bowl - he did it with Pittsburgh in 2011 - Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright have had their moments.
Then there’s Thielen, a talented second-year player who has been buried on the depth chart. And now the Vikings have a rookie in fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs, who is turning heads.
That’s six quality receivers. It’s no wonder there will be serious competition in training camp and in the five preseason games. The Vikings’ exhibition opener is Sunday against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can go out there and run real fast and make a lot of big plays,” Wright said. “It’s going to be tough for everybody (to get playing time), and that’s including myself. But at the same time, it’s a long season and there’s a lot of plays to be played.”
Wallace, Johnson and Wright all had 100-yard receiving games last season. Patterson had one as a rookie in 2013, and Minnesota’s receiving corps will be even stronger if he can bounce back from a disappointing 2014.
Looking to take advantage of all this depth is second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He also has intriguing targets in tight end Kyle Rudolph and at running back, where Adrian Peterson could be more of a pass-catching threat than in the past.
Backup quarterback Shaun Hill is entering his 14th season. He has had stints with the Vikings, San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis but said he’s never been on a team with such a bevy of quality receivers.
“We have a lot of guys who are capable of making plays, and that’s a good problem to have, for sure,” Hill said. “This is as deep of a group as I’ve been around as far as receivers. This is exciting, and it creates a lot of competition, which brings out the best in everybody.”
Wallace, who had two difficult years in Miami after starring for the Steelers from 2009-12, and Johnson, who came out of nowhere last season to make 31 catches for 475 yards in 12 games with the Vikings, are in line to be the starters. After that, it will be a battle to get on the field.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can play on Sunday,” Johnson said.
Wright had games of 132 and 123 receiving yards last season. He likely is battling Patterson, who had a 141-yard game in December 2013, for the role as the No. 3 receiver.
Diggs, who had a great first week of training camp, is the wild card. He is being looked at to return kicks and punts but also will have a chance in the preseason to show he should get regular-season snaps at wide receiver.
“He’s certainly made some great plays for us, and he’s really stepped up,” said Hill, who threw two touchdown passes to Diggs in Saturday’s scrimmage. “He’s an exciting player, for sure. He’s fun to watch out there right now.”
Wallace knows about coming to a team stacked at receiver. When he joined the Steelers as a rookie in 2009, they had Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
There was enough to go around that season for Wallace to catch 39 passes. He later had Antonio Brown as a teammate, and the two of them made the Pro Bowl in 2011.
“That was a little difference because our guys then were a little more experienced and veteran players,” Wallace said. “But we have some younger players here who are under the radar. We’ve got a lot of (wide receivers) that not a lot of people know about, but they’ll learn.”
The Pioneer PRESS is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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