Friday, October 18, 2013
Jennings trying to roll with QB changes
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When he signed his five-year, $45 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings in March, Greg Jennings proclaimed his faith in Christian Ponder, saying the third-year quarterback had "all the tools." The receiver added that a film review of Ponder convinced him he'd be fine leaving the comforts of Green Bay, where he'd played with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.
In new Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman, Greg Jennings may see an opportunity to return to his old form.
Fast-forward 7 1/2 months, and Jennings is about to play with his third starting quarterback in six games with the Vikings -- or the same number he had in seven years with the Packers. He hadn't talked to reporters since the Vikings returned from London, hustling past the assembled media a couple times this week after practice. When Jennings stopped for an interview session Friday, he was clearly mindful of tripping the alarms of internet headline aggregators following his exchange of barbs dipped in humor with Rodgers this summer.
"If somebody would have told me [I'd have played with this many QBs so soon], I don't know if I would have came," Jennings joked. "No. ... A little humor. A little humor."
In reality, it's tough to imagine this is what Jennings signed up for when he left Green Bay. He's got 20 catches for 286 yards in five games, and his only two touchdowns came in the Vikings' only win Sept. 29. He praised Matt Cassel's assertiveness the week before he took the starting job for the Vikings' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, and Jennings had positive things to say Friday about Josh Freeman's adaptation to the offense.
"He throws kind of a windup and it's a heavier ball. There's a lot more velocity," Jennings said. That's really good. It sneaks up on you. It honestly does. But it's one of those balls that when you turn around, the ball's right there. Smart quarterback. Nothing different from the other guys. He's very smart. He's learning the system. He's picking it up really, really quick. He's in the building day and night. You like to see that in a quarterback."
Freeman could be good for Jennings, who's made a career out of catching darts over the middle from Favre and Rodgers. He looked uncomfortable early this season with Ponder when he had to make a great catch to secure the ball rather than piling up yards after the catch. Only four wide receivers -- Percy Harvin, Miles Austin, Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson -- had averaged more yards after the catch than Jennings' 5.35 during his time in Green Bay, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and while Jennings has 137 yards after the catch this season, 63 of those came on his 70-yard touchdown against the Steelers. Without that play, Jennings is averaging just 3.89 yards after the catch this season.
In all likelihood, Jennings will spend the rest of his prime with the Vikings, and Freeman might represent his best chance not to weather a rebuilding phase with a young quarterback. We'll see if the presence of a bigger arm can turn Jennings back into the kind of receiver he's used to being.
"You have to fight through adversity. You've got to be able to adjust when we're making midseason adjustments," he said. "We've been making changes at the quarterback position and we have to rhythm up."