MANKATO, Minn. – Jarius Wright wrapped up the Minnesota Vikings afternoon practice, the first practice in pads, hauling in a touchdown catch with first-round pick, cornerback Xavier Rhodes draped on his back.
Wright was on the outside, handled the physicality and of Rhodes and made the move to the sideline in catching the pass. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Wright has the confidence to make such plays. He’s trying to prove to coaches, and really anyone that will watch, he can make plays that contradict his smaller stature.
Since Wright was taken in the fourth round out of Arkansas in last year’s draft, he’s been labeled as an inside, slot receiver. He doesn’t want to be defined just by his size.
“I kind of think that’s half of it right there,” Wright said. “(People) think just because I’m a smaller guy, I’m only a slot receiver. But I’m trying to break that mold and show them that a smaller guy can also play outside receiver.”
While the Vikings made moves in the offseason to address those outside positions with the signing of Greg Jennings — considered a versatile receiver even at 6-feet, 195 pounds — and 6-foot-4 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson. Wright actually checks in as the short guy in a suddenly big receiving corps, the only receiver listed below 6-feet tall.
Wright says there is more to his game than just playing inside in the slot, where he has been running as the third receiver on the field when the first-team offense goes three-wide. Wright has come on with Jennings and Jerome Simpson, the team’s starters, in those three-receiver sets. But he’s not totally confined to the inside either.
Wright knows he can offer more than just working the inside of the field. He effectively stretched the field last season when he finally got his chance to play in a regular-season game as a rookie. He was a weekly inactive while Percy Harvin was leading the Vikings in receiving. After Harvin was hurt and lost for the year, Wright got his chance and averaged over 14 yards per catch.
His first NFL reception, after his long wait to get in the lineup, was a 54-yarder on a streak down the middle of the field. Two plays later he had his first NFL touchdown on a 3-yard catch.
Since Minnesota acquired Jennings and Patterson, many looked at Wright as just a slot receiver. He knows he’s more than just an inside player, as he showed working by handling the physicality of Rhodes on Monday.
“People think I’m just an inside and slot receiver and I’m just trying to show people I’m a versatile receiver and can play inside or outside,” Wright said.
Inside or outside, Wright will have his chances this season. Minnesota wants more balance to complement MVP running back Adrian Peterson.
Like the well-discussed tutelage of Patterson, Wright is doing his part to learn as much from the veteran Jennings as well.
“Just some of his moves and things I can be patient on and more things that I need to attack more, releases, things like that; things he’s been through and things he’s saw in the past that guys do,” Wright said of what he’s trying to take from Jennings. “It’s definitely helping me out. More knowledge, the more knowledge I can get the better I’ll be as I progress.”