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Jarius Wright, David Morgan highlight depth that makes Vikings’ offense tick

There are different ways to define depth.

Some teams have multiple players with similar skill sets who can handle the same assignments, so if one player gets hurt, the team doesn’t lose as much as others might. There’s also depth provided from key role players.

In the Vikings’ case, nobody can replace Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. They are two of the top 10 rated receivers by Pro Football Focus. None of the next men up have their all-around skill sets. But the Vikings’ offense has role players who make it challenging for defenses to focus on just Diggs and Thielen. And those role players tend to show up when they are most needed.

At the top of that list is tight end David Morgan and receiver Jarius Wright.

Morgan is rated by PFF as the seventh best tight end in the NFL and the fourth best run blocker. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end has been targeted 12 times in the passing game, 10 of which have been catches including three first downs on three targets on third downs. He caught a 24-yard pass on a rollout from Case Keenum against the Green Bay Packers on a scoring drive and also turned a short pass on fourth-and-short into a 14-yard gain against the Cleveland Browns.

Morgan also has a touchdown catch to his name at the goal line in Washington.

“Tight end in general, we’re asked to do a lot of things,” Morgan said Friday. “We’re run blocking, we’re pass protecting, we’re going out and catching the ball. It’s a position where you’re asked to do a lot, but we’ve done a great job and we have a great coaching staff that gets us prepared every week.”

One important role for Morgan that doesn’t end up in the box score is in play-action. He’s rarely the intended target, but his presence alone forces opponents to be wary of a Latavius Murray power run.

Against the Saints, there’s a good chance he will be used as an extra pass blocker on such play-action plays as the Vikings look to slow down PFF’s No. 1 ranked pass rusher Cameron Jordan. Morgan is preparing for every type of situation.

“I am studying film seeing what types of things he likes to resort to, what types of moves he likes to do,” Morgan said of a matchup with Jordan. “A lot of comes down to technique on yourself. Everyone you face in the NFL is a great player. Obviously he’s definitely better than the average guy. You have to have an idea of what he’s going to do, then play your balls off.”

With starting tight end Kyle Rudolph slowed by an ankle injury over the final three weeks of the season, Morgan played between 60 and 75 percent of the Vikings’ total offensive snaps. On average, he’s been near the 50 percent mark, a high rate for a No. 2 tight end.

“Over the course of the year, it’s been my biggest thing, getting those reps, being in a lot of different positions and seeing a lot of different things,” Morgan said. “Not just practicing them but seeing them 100 miles per hour and seeing them in a game. Nothing can really compare to getting a look like that in the game…I would definitely say that’s grown my confidence and my trust in myself and my teammates.”

Receiver Jarius Wright played a lot of snaps early in his career and hardly any last year. This season, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has found a role to fit what he does best: Convert third downs.

Wright isn’t big, but he is savvy, often finding holes in the opposing team’s defense in big situations. Of his 18 receptions this year, 10 have been on third down and eight of those have turned into first downs, including a touchdown catch in Cleveland. Wright says experience has helped him find openings and make plays, even when he’s coming in only a few times per game.

“That’s definitely a big part of it,” Wright said. “I’ve been here six years, I understand football, I watch enough film to understand what teams are trying to get done and I’m pretty good at being in the right place at the right time.”

Keenum also knows when he targets Wright, he’s going to bring the ball in. Over the last four years, he’s caught 105 of 151 throws in his direction (69.5 percent) and under Shurmur, he’s caught 29 of 39 (74.3 percent).

Anyone who’s watched the NFL playoffs can attest to the fact that role players can become legends when they make plays on the biggest stage. If the regular season trend carries over, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Morgan or Wright come through in an important situation.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Depth is deep in a lot of areas this year ~

    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have shuffled the deck at times on the offensive line this season, and more moving and shaking could be on the horizon for Sunday’s playoff game against the Saints.

    Minnesota has used seven different starting line combinations, and will likely turn to an eighth in the Divisional round of the postseason.

    Riley Reiff will start at left tackle, rookie Pat Elflein will be in at center and Joe Berger will be the starter at right guard.

    The other two spots — left guard and right tackle — could come down to a trio of players in Rashod Hill, Mike Remmers and Jeremiah Sirles.

    Remmers started 10 games at right tackle and one at right guard. Hill made six starts at right tackle and one on the left side. Sirles made three starts at left guard.

    If the Vikings go with Hill at right tackle, either Sirles or Remmers could line up at guard in between Reiff and Elflein. The Vikings also have rookie Danny Isidora, who appeared in seven games and made one start at left guard in Week 8.

    Remmers didn’t tip his hand when asked where he would line up Sunday.

    “It doesn’t matter,” Remmers said. “I’m just going out there and playing football.”

    Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Thursday that he feels comfortable with Remmers at any spot on the offensive line.

    “He’s got enough size where he can anchor down, but he’s also a guy that can move around,” Shurmur said. “He uses his hands well, he works well together with the guard if he’s playing tackle, and certainly the tackle if he’s playing guard.

    • SM

      My meaningless vote is keep Sirles in reserve. Put Berger or Remmers at LG and use Collins and Morgan in the jumbo pkg.

      I like Morgan a lot, reminds me of Kleinsasser.

      • Pete

        Remmers is better at tackle than guard.

        • SM

          Even so,.Shurmer said he is totally fine with Remmers at any position. They take a drop with Sirles starting.

      • Gordon Guffey

        I think they saw Remmers as a future OG when they signed him ~ I remember both Zimmer and Spielman talking about him being able to play anywhere ~

  • Gordon Guffey

    I hope they can find a way to get Wright involved more throughout the playoffs ~ And not just as a 3rd down WR ~ He has proven he can get open deep and do it against some very good CB ~ Anyone remember the game he had against the Seahawks the year before Norv took over ~ ??? He has also shown he can take a short pass to the house ~ Wright has speed and more than enough ~ The only reason I can see for him not being the #3 WR might be his blocking ~

    The Morgan kid is great also but how about Aviante Collins at TE ~ The running game looked very good with him out there as did the pass blocking ~ I dont think he is a danger to the defense catching passes but he sure could be a big help if the lined him up on Cameron Jordan side ~

    I keep looking for Morgan to take off in the passing game ~ He seems to run good routes and he also seems to have very good hands ~ While he may never be a deep seam threat he has show getting first downs is not a problem ~ And as Shurmur has said many times ~ And I know this kills some here ~ But a 5 yard pass is just as good as a 5 yard run and the key to making it so is how Case works every second of the play clock after the pass is complete ~

    • Matthew Rowe

      He put a double move on Richard Sherman for a Ponder thrown TD that day, Sherman almost fell down. Wright’s got game.

      • Gordon Guffey

        Didn’t he score two long TD’s that day or am I thinking of another game ~ ??? I remember the move he put on Sherman ~ Maybe I’m combining games or something but I thought for sure he scored on two long pass plays in that game ~

        Anyway I agree Write has games and has been wasting away behind the likes of M. Floyd and Treadwell who I’m still holding out hope for ~

  • Gordon Guffey

    Posted: 30 minutes ago
    Zimmer: We Intend To Take Advantage Of Being At Home
    Head Coach Mike Zimmer joined Paul Allen on this week’s “Vikings GamePlan” to look ahead to Sunday’s game with the Saints, the importance of the crowd being as loud as possible, Anthony Barr’s big-time season, and what Stefon Diggs brings to the offense.

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