In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: wide receiver Jarius Wright.
Why he has something to prove: Wright is looking for a bigger role in an offense that should provide more opportunities for him after two seasons where he has been overshadowed in the Vikings' offense. He had a solid second half in 2012, filling in for Percy Harvin as a slot receiver after spending the first half of his rookie season on the inactive list, but only posted three games where he totaled more than 50 yards. He finished the season with 26 catches for 434 yards, which was barely better than his output in a rookie year when he caught 22 passes for 310 yards despite playing in just seven games. Wright was impressive during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp, and should have room to work in Norv Turner's offense, but the onus is on him to take advantage of the opportunities.
What he must do: Wright seemed to click with quarterback Matt Cassel, who did a better job of involving the Vikings' receivers than Christian Ponder did last season, and that could provide a foundation for him as he heads into 2014. He caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Cassel in Week 16 against the Bengals, when he sold a defender on a play fake and raced in untouched after Cassel found him behind Cincinnati's defense. Wright also worked well with Teddy Bridgewater during the Vikings' minicamp, and he could fit as a slot receiver in Turner's scheme; according to ESPN Stats and Information, only eight teams targeted slot receivers more than the Cleveland Browns did last season, while Turner was their offensive coordinator.
Projection: Wright manages to carve out a slightly bigger role for himself in Turner's offense, catching 30 passes for 480 yards, as he makes a case for himself as a solid slot receiver in the future. He has proved to be a fluid route-runner, catching a number of long passes off double moves, and if he's able to do that again in Turner's offense, Cassel or Bridgewater should find him on downfield throws.