The Minnesota Vikings’ signing of Greg Jennings is a step in the right direction toward rebuilding an embarrassing passing game and receiving corps. Give General Manager Rick Spielman a lot of credit for taking a chance on the talented receiver and doing whatever it took to get him to sign in Minnesota. However, Jennings alone cannot solve the Vikings’ issues. I am not going to argue that Jennings isn’t a talented receiver because he is very talented. The problem lies in the supporting cast, mainly the quarterback responsible for throwing him the ball. Jennings has been the beneficiary of two superb quarterbacks delivering him the ball over the course of his career in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Christian Ponder, who is now responsible for delivering him the ball, was rumored to be a reason for the departure of Percy Harvin. If that doesn’t paint a clear picture about the skill set of the “quarterback of the future” for the Vikings, I don’t know what does.
The Vikings and their fan base should be excited about the signing of Jennings because he does immediately give them a legitimate number one receiver on their roster. However, if you don’t have a quarterback to get the ball to that receiver, none of it matters. Jennings has accumulated 425 catches, 6,537 receiving yards and 53 TD over 96 career games, which merits number one receiver consideration. One thing to consider when looking at these statistics, however, is who was throwing Jennings the ball and which other receivers lined up alongside Jennings.
The fact that Jennings had Rodgers and Favre throwing him the ball and guys like Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Javon Walker playing alongside of him shows the kind of supporting cast that Jennings had around him when he accumulated all his statistics. Could Jennings have put up these numbers without that supporting cast around him? Yes he could have, but that question remains unanswered heading into 2013.
Heading into 2013, Jennings has a new supporting cast of Ponder, Adrian Peterson, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson. Nobody will question the obvious talent of Peterson or Rudolph, but Ponder greatly puts the success of everyone involved at risk if he under-performs. If Jennings expects to succeed in Minnesota, Ponder is going to have to improve. In addition to Ponder’s improvement, the Vikings will also need to acquire more talented receivers to take the pressure off of Jennings and allow for more single coverage.
Luckily for the Vikings, they have the ammunition to go out and acquire the talent necessary to make Jennings successful in Minnesota. The team has two first round draft picks with the number 23 and 25 overall selections in the upcoming NFL draft and they also have the cap room to sign additional receivers if they choose to. The Vikings will need to draft at least one receiver who can stretch the field opposite Jennings if he is to succeed with the Vikings. This is said to be a very deep draft for talented receivers, so the Vikings must take one of them during the early rounds of the draft to make sense of the Jennings signing.
No matter who the Vikings draft or who the team signs to fill out the rest of the receiving corps, it all will continue to come back to Ponder. With the best running back in football in the backfield, there will be plenty of opportunities in the secondary for the Vikings to succeed in the passing game. This is because the tackling box will likely be consisting of at least eight defenders every game, which is great news for a receiver.
If Ponder cannot make the routine throws and get Jennings—and whoever else the team brings in to support him—the ball in places to succeed, then Jennings will amount to nothing with the Vikings. However, this signing could also expose Ponder for what he is and possibly accelerate a potential quarterback change with the Vikings if he continues to struggle. Whatever the case, the signing of Jennings comes with a lot of question marks and few answers. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Vikings over the next few months; but as it stands today, Jennings will struggle to succeed in Minnesota and may have signed himself into a receiver’s penitentiary.