Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was a week from returning to the Vikings' roster after a three-game suspension for drunken driving, when ESPN reported on Sept. 18 that Simpson had been cited in July for misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an open bottle. The Vikings released Simpson later that day, and signed Charles Johnson off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad the next day.
It seemed at the time like a move to replenish the Vikings' wide receiver depth with a known commodity -- quarterbacks coach Scott Turner had been Johnson's position coach the previous year in Cleveland -- but Johnson was less than a year removed from knee surgery, and didn't play more than 20 snaps in a game until Nov. 16. From that point on, though, he caught 25 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and supplanted Cordarrelle Patterson as the team's "X" receiver.
"He was recovering from that knee surgery a year ago and I don't know that he was ever 100 percent," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "I think he's 100 percent. He's got great work ethic, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218-pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league."
In organized team activities and minicamp, there was no mystery about where Johnson figured in the Vikings' plans, the story went on to say. He was lined up at split end all spring, and teamed with Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the team's three receiver sets. According to ESPN, 33 of Johnson's 58 targets were at least 10 yards downfield, and 13 of those 58 were 20 or more yards downfield. Johnson worked out in Southern California with Bridgewater and a number of the Vikings' receivers this offseason, and also spent time in Houston with Rischad Whitfield, the "Footwork King" who has counted Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins among his clients. Johnson is one of 4for4.com Senior Editor John Paulsen's potential sleepers this year. We rank him 37th on our WR list and he looks to be in a good situation with the offense under OC Norv Turner and a developing QB in Bridgewater.
After working on his throwing motion and putting touch on the deep ball this offseason, Kaepernick is grateful for the injection of speed brought by newcomers Torrey Smith, Jerome Simpson and Reggie Bush.
“They’ve been huge so far and bring a lot of speed to the field, bring a lot of deep vertical threat,” Kaepernick said.
And that’s not to mention tight end Vernon Davis, who has looked “extremely fast” stretching the field this offseason, according to HC Jim Tomsula.
Davis is a talent, but the team didn't do a good job of using him last season. His 50 targets were his fewest since 2008, and his usage was way too low considering he has finished in the top 8 at his position in four of the last six seasons. He was targeted just once in the red zone after seeing 20 red zone targets in 2013. It's up to new OC Geep Chryst (formerly the team's QB coach) to get Davis more involved in the offense. Given his 15th round ADP, he's a very low-risk pick given his upside.
"It's the first thing everyone sees -- how fast the ball comes out of his hand," QB Dennis Gile said. That's a result of all the alterations -- from his head to the bottom of his cleats -- that the quarterback has made. "It's not about how hard you can throw it or how fast you can get rid of it," Gile said. "It's how quickly he can release it while still being relaxed."
One of the main things that changed was Kaepernick's stance. Gile said it was too narrow. That is, his feet were close together -- "real tall on his tippy toes," Gile said -- and when he took a step to throw the ball, that step was too big, too exaggerated. That elongated his release.
It's also helped his accuracy. Gile said Kaepernick made the biggest gains with his deep passes. That has to be good news for wideouts like Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson, who were brought in this offseason to add firepower to a deep passing attack that had been lightly utilized in previous seasons.
Gile said he expected Kaepernick to return to Phoenix and continue to work on his craft during the team's break in early July.
It was reported earlier in the offseason that the team planned to utilize Kaepernick’s running ability to a greater degree. Kaepernick ran the ball 12 more times in 2014 than he did in 2013 for an additional 115 yards, so it's not like he abandoned the scramble. It sounds like it's more about utilizing the read-option as a larger part of the offense. If that's the case, it could be a boon to Kaepernick's fantasy value. He was the #14 QB in 2014 after finishing #9 the season before, though his overall production only dipped by 11 fantasy points. He's a bounce-back candidate provided new OC Geep Chryst can design an offense that can move the ball. Chryst previously served as the OC for the Chargers in 1999 and 2000, but his offenses ranked 26th and 28th overall in that span. Any gains that Kaepernick can make as a thrower (due to his offseason work with Gile and former Rams/Cardinals QB Kurt Warner) will only help his overall value.
Monday, June 1, 2015, 1:04pm
The 49ers addition of WR Jerome Simpson has been a positive under-the-radar development for both sides of the ball. Here's why: Simpson is making plays on offense, and he's helping his defensive teammates prepare against a long, rangy receiver who is capable of getting deep and taking the top off a defense. Simpson made a pair of brilliant catches against his defensive counterparts. After failing to secure a deep ball in the individual period of practice, Simpson made a leaping grab to open up 11-on-11 work. He later beat Dontae Johnson down the right sideline to hook up with Colin Kaepernick on a 60-plus yard touchdown reception. Simpson's presence, along with Torrey Smith, appears to be giving San Francisco a valuable one-two punch of downfield threats.
Anquan Boldin and newly acquired Torrey Smith will likely assume the top two receiving spots on the depth chart, but the No. 3 job appears to be an open competition. The list of pass-catchers competing includes Quinton Patton, Jerome Simpson, Bruce Ellington, Chuck Jacobs and the 49ers five undrafted free agents.
A few months back, Patton seized the opportunity to train with Kaepernick in Arizona.
Chemistry is key for quarterbacks and receivers, especially for a pass-catcher trying to become a staple in the 49ers offensive game plan.
“It benefited me just to know that we were throwing the ball together,” Patton said. “He was telling me what he was seeing and I was telling him what I was seeing and just knowing where to be. He worked on everything he needed to work on, and I worked on everything I needed to work on. It worked hand in hand.”
The 49ers haven't thrown the ball that much in recent years so it's difficult to see a WR3 in this system having much of a fantasy impact. But if either Boldin or Smith suffer an injury, Patton may be able to capitalize.
Simpson was arrested for possession of marijuana. He was already serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.
Simpson has had his moments throughout his career, but hasn't been able to stay out of trouble off the field.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 1:34pm
Fortunately for the Vikings' receiver depth, their offense has two things working in its favor. First, OC Norv Turner makes frequent use of two-tight end sets; the San Diego Chargers used more of them than all but one team while Turner was the head coach from 2007-12, and used the fewest three-receiver formations during that time. And second, the Vikings have another versatile wideout in third-year man Jarius Wright.
The 5-foot-11 Wright, who'd been cast as a slot receiver early in his rookie year, actually ran 192 of his 252 routes lined up wide last season, as Jennings and Patterson got more of the slot work. He caught 23 of his 26 passes lined up out wide, and clicked with quarterback Matt Cassel late in the season, catching 14 of his 26 passes from Cassel for 252 yards. Wright saw 30.7 percent of his routes from the slot during the preseason, and he's got plenty to prove in Year 3 as he tries to carve out a niche in the offense, so he should be ready and eager to fit into the Vikings' scheme while Simpson is out.
The story breaks it down in depth on how the team will move its WRs around this year based on the preseason: During their third preseason game in Kansas City, when the Vikings' starters played almost all of the first three quarters, they ran 18 plays out of three-receiver sets, displaying impressive variety in how they lined up their three wideouts. Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Simpson all saw time on both sides and in the slot. It's perhaps especially good news for Patterson owners that the team is trying to create mismatches for the talented WR.
This will open up opportunities for Jarius Wright early in the season.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 9:21am
The punishment arises from a November 2013 arrest for DUI and refusal to submit to a chemical test. Simpson later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and failure to submit to a chemical test, but the outcome triggers scrutiny under the portion of the substance-abuse policy that relates to alcohol-related offenses.
Simpson’s three-game suspension arising from felony drug charges in 2012 made him susceptible to a suspension for his latest offense under the substance-abuse policy. Which doesn’t bode well for Browns receiver Josh Gordon and his own pending DUI charge, given his history of violations of the substance-abuse policy.
Monday, August 18, 2014, 4:37pm
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson missed practice Monday to attend a hearing at NFL headquarters in New York and defend himself against a possible suspension for his November drunken-driving arrest, according to a person with direct knowledge.
The league is determining whether to discipline Simpson as a repeat offender under its collectively bargained Policy and Program For Substances of Abuse.
Sunday, August 10, 2014, 8:07pm
Plenty of roster decisions remain for the Vikings between now and the end of training camp. As it stands now, though, it sure seems like the hometown kid has his spot secured.
WR Adam Thielen, a product of Minnesota State-Mankato, has impressed in camp, in the first preseason game, and has one of his fellow receivers certain he'll make the team.
"I feel like Adam is a starter," roommate Cordarrelle Patterson said. "He don't feel like he's on the team but I tell him every day, 'man you're on this team. There's nothing you can do that you won't be a part of this team.'
"Adam's a great guy. ... I know he's going to make the team."
Thielen spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad, but he was listed as the backup "first wide receiver" on the team's unofficial depth chart released last week, which would mean he's as high as fifth on the wide receiver pecking order. Vikings analyst for 1500ESPN.com, Andrew Krammer, included Thielen as the fifth wide receiver to make the cut. The Vikings could possibly take as many as six, given that Jerome Simpson is likely to be suspended by the NFL.
Saturday, August 2, 2014, 4:29pm
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."
Jarius 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.
Wright looks like he's going to get time in the slot this season as the team's WR3, but he's going to have to prove himself before being fantasy worthy. The Vikes are also going to rely heavily on TE Kyle Rudolph in the passing game, according to reports, so Wright will have to fight for targets.
After nearly one week of training camp, Greg Jennings' head is spinning a little less as he addressed the predictability factor that running back Adrian Peterson said hindered the Minnesota Vikings offense in the past.
"We were heavy, heavy, heavy run game," Jennings said. "Now we're going to take a lot more stress off Adrian. He's still going to get a heavy dosage of runs, but I think what Norv brings to the table is a more balanced offense."
When Jennings signed with the Vikings, the initial intention by the previous coaching staff was to use him as a flanker. However, he lined up in the slot 65 percent of the snaps last season, per PFF, and Turner wants to use Jennings in a similar fashion - but in a vastly different scheme.
During training camp practices, the Vikings appear to be using two split ends on the field more so than in previous schemes as Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson line up on the outside, with Jennings and/or Jarius Wright on the inside.
Jennings dealt with some injuries in 2013 but he showed a nice rapport with Matt Cassel, averaging 5.9 catches for 70 yards and 0.57 TD with Cassel under center. Unfortunately Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman dragged the Vikings FP/Att into the bottom seven in the league. Assuming Cassel or promising rookie Teddy Bridgewater can offer better efficiency, Jennings should bounce back as most fantasy eyes are set squarely on Cordarrelle Patterson. For what it’s worth, Cassel’s FP/Att was 0.971, which was very close to the league average. Jennings is going in the 13th round even though he finished as the #39 WR in 2013.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 9:36am
That has less to do with his performance on the field than it does about concerns off of it. Simpson was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving last November, and though he's completed his community service requirement after pleading guilty to a lesser charge, he could still face NFL discipline for his second arrest in less than three years.
If Simpson is suspended at all this season, he'll have a harder time putting up the numbers to earn the multi-year deal he's often said he wants. If he can stay out of trouble, though, there will be opportunities for him in the Vikings' offense.
Simpson will have to compete with second-year player Cordarrelle Patterson and vet Greg Jennings. But, both Patterson and Simpson have worked at other spots, according to the story, and in an offense that figures to spread things out and push the ball downfield more, Simpson could find plenty of opportunities to put up numbers. More than one-third of his targets last season came on passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and that number could be at least as high this season. He's off our fantasy radar right now, ranked just 92nd and not getting drafted, but he's one of many guys who could get plucked off the waiver wire at some point.
Friday, March 14, 2014, 3:24pm
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