Jarius Wright building to be more than just a slot receiver
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MANKATO, Minn. - Jarius Wright head faked to his right and cut hard left across Richard Sherman's body en route to a 38-yard touchdown, his first of last season.
Wright, listed at 5-foot-10, has predominantly been thought of as the Minnesota Vikings main slot receiver, with Greg Jennings pegged to be the flanker, or 'Z' receiver, before last season.
But Jennings ran about 65 percent of his routes from the slot, per ProFootballFocus.com, as Wright was featured as the flanker on the game-tying touchdown catch against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks secondary.
"I've heard a lot about that play," Wright said. "Me personally, I leave that play in the past.
"I think it definitely shows what I can do, just a little glimpse."
That versatility from Vikings wide outs is what receivers coach George Stewart views as a strength for his group that hopes to be featured more with steady quarterback play.
"In Norv's offense, everything's up for everyone," Stewart said. "We have guys that can handle different things. Hopefully we have a chance to be very, very, very multiple at the outside receiver spot."
Wright became the first receiver since Titus Young on Oct. 28, 2012 to record multiple touchdown catches against the Seahawks when he caught a 21-yarder from the slot position later in the game.
However, Wright only lined up in the slot about a quarter of his snaps last season as the team prominently featured Jennings in that role. With Cordarrelle Patterson's continued development and a proven downfield threat in Jerome Simpson, Wright's versatility despite his lack of height will help his cause to be more featured in his third NFL season.
"Some people think just because I'm a smaller receiver, I can't play outside," Wright said. "I have the mindset and skillset to be an outside receiver."
While Patterson and Simpson play split end, or 'X' receiver, the responsibilities as a 'Z' receiver differ from the slot. There's certainly similarities, as you can motion a 'Z' receiver into the slot.
However, if Wright continues to see work on the outside as a flanker (which lines up opposite of the split end), he'll lineup in front of cornerbacks instead of linebackers more often, which requires the type of speed Wright's displayed in his first two years with the Vikings.
"You go back to multiplicity," Stewart said. "Jarius is one of those guys we expect to play this year. Norv is going to use him. He's going to do fine for us regardless of how we use him."
Wright did not see the field much last season as he was in on just 40 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps, but when he's involved -- he excels with the long ball.
Wright averaged a team-high 16.7 yards per catch in 2013 and his five touchdown catches have come from an average of 31 yards away from the endzone - which includes a 36-yard touchdown against Mike Zimmer's Cincinnati Bengals last season in which he lined up outside of Jennings.
"There's the one against Richard Sherman," Wright said. "Then later one against the Bengals. I think it shows I can be an outside, versatile receiver."