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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Vikings' WRs learning Turner's offense

By Ben Goessling

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As a receiver who'd spent his formative years in the West Coast offense, Greg Jennings knew his first spring in Norv Turner's scheme was going to involve some rewiring of his brain.

As one of the "Air Coryell" offensive system's most prominent disciples, Turner was going to bring a markedly different offense to Minnesota than the one that made Jennings a Pro Bowler in Green Bay. Everything about the offense, from the terminology used to name routes to the plays given the highest priority, was going to be new to the 30-year-old receiver.

Greg Jennings
Greg Jennings said he's confident that Norv Turner's scheme will help make the Vikings' offense more potent than in recent seasons.
"Literally, I've had to erase everything I've learned in the past and start completely over," Jennings said. "It's exciting. It's overwhelming, which today in practice probably will show. But this is Day 2 [of the Vikings' voluntary minicamp], so we're excited."

The offense won't be a major change for just Jennings. All but two of the Vikings' receivers -- Jennings and Jerome Simpson -- had spent their entire NFL careers in former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's scheme -- which, by all accounts, was less complex than what Turner is bringing to Minnesota.

"If last year's offense was complicated," Jennings said, "guys will struggle with this one."

At the other end of the learning curve, however, could be rejuvenation for an offense that seemed ill-prepared to use all of its playmakers the past two seasons. Whether the Vikings had to simplify things to compensate for their instability at quarterback or whether Musgrave's offense just had fewer variables, the Vikings' passing game sagged the past two seasons, even as Adrian Peterson presented Minnesota's offense with as many favorable matchups as almost any in the league.  According to ESPN Stats & Information, opponents put eight defenders in the box on 196 snaps against the Vikings last season; only the San Francisco 49ers saw that look more often. But instead of taking advantage of teams loading up to stop Peterson, the Vikings sputtered, finishing 23rd in the league in both passing yards and yards per attempt. When they faced eight-man fronts, their QBR of 9.5 was the third-worst in the league.

Turner, though, brings a well-worn reputation as having one of the more aggressive downfield passing games in the league, which probably makes it easier for the Vikings' receivers to see past the indoctrination phase in his offense.

"What he says, you can pretty much stamp it in concrete," Jennings said. "He’s one of those guys that’s not going to give you a bunch of leeway because his offense works. It’s proven and that’s one of his statements he makes. ‘Look guys, I’ve been around a little bit longer than most guys in this building and this has worked.’"

And even though the coaching change will mean Jennings has to adapt to a new way of thinking and second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has to digest another scheme, the payoff could be worth it for the Vikings' receivers.

"I had the opportunity to talk to [Browns receiver] Josh Gordon at the Pro Bowl," Patterson said. "He was telling me, ‘My coach is going to get you the football. Not just you -- everybody on your team, running backs, tight ends. Everybody is going to get the ball.'"