EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Through two preseason games, wide receiver Devin Aromashodu hasn’t had a catch for the Minnesota Vikings.
His statline during Friday’s preseason game — six targets, zero catches — came at a time Minnesota is looking for receivers to step forward, especially as the Vikings begin to decrease starter Jerome Simpson’s reps in preparation for his three-game suspension at the start of the regular season.
Aromashodu at least looked like one of the most logical replacements for Simpson, based on the end of the 2011 season when he was Minnesota’s second receiver behind Percy Harvin. The Vikings still believe Aromashodu can be a viable option to replace Simpson as a deep threat and aren’t worried about his production in two preseason games.
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“Well Devin has just had some bad luck here these first two games,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We’ve tried to send the ball his way and various factors have caused us to come up empty. So, we’re going to keep going to that well. We can count on Devin. He knows what to do and he gives us his best effort every day. So, the worm will turn in that regard.”
Aromashodu made attempts at two jump balls during Friday’s game, covered tightly by a receiver. He made a catch on one of them, but both times came down out of bounds. Musgrave said Aromashodu needs to give more room on his outside shoulder, but added that the quarterbacks need to throw the ball where the receiver has a chance to come down in bounds.
“What happened on Friday night isn’t all his issue,” coach Leslie Frazier said Sunday. “He’s doing everything we ask him to do, we just have to keep the ball in play and give him a chance to make a play on the ball. But he’s trying to get that part of his game where we want it and it’s encouraging to see because we think he has the ability to make those hard and contested catches, we just have to give him an opportunity to do so other than out of bounds.”
Frazier has said finding a receiver who can make the tough and contested catches is a key and could be a separating point as Minnesota looks for improved production from its receivers. Simpson was signed as a free agent in the offseason and has made a few big catches, especially downfield. Harvin is still the top receiver and Michael Jenkins has worked mostly as the third receiver. But there are several receivers trying to win roster spots, Aromashodu among them.
Whoever can win those battles could be relied on early in the season. The Vikings plan to scale back Simpson’s role in the final two weeks because he is suspended for the first three games. Frazier and Musgrave have both said Simpson won’t play as much in the final two preseason games.
“He’s not going to get maximum work,” Musgrave said of Simpson. “He’s going to get more limited work because we are going to line up the guys and get familiar with the guys that are going to be lining up against Jacksonville.”
Aromashodu also missed a play in the end zone on Friday where he couldn’t get up for a high pass with a defender right on him, but Frazier again said it was “hard to fault” Aromashodu on the play. Aromashodu is just trying to continue to develop and prove to the coaches he can be trusted, such as on the two plays where he finished out of bounds.
“Stuff like that happens,” Aromashodu said. “I’m kind of happy it happened because I have to show I can fight through and stuff isn’t always going to happen. Just come back and be ready for the next games.
“The main thing, I was just trying to compete. I think that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, just trying to compete.”
One aspect in Aromashodu’s favor as he looks to be Simpson’s fill-in could be the rapport he built with quarterback Christian Ponder at the end of last season. Aromashodu finished the year with 26 catches for 468 yards, averaging 18 yards-per-reception and one touchdown.
When Jenkins was lost for the year with a knee injury, Aromashodu had 17 of his catches and 255 yards receiving in the final five games.
“D.A.’s a guy who’s so consistent and we’ve been watching him, we were watching one-on-one tape the other day and he runs such great routes and knows how to get open,” Ponder said. “He’s just so consistent. He’s one of the older guys on this squad. So, yeah I definitely feel more than comfortable for him to be out there.”
Cook, Carlson still out; Rudolph returns: Cornerback Chris Cook was still unavailable for the Vikings on Monday as he continues to deal with concussion symptoms and Frazier wasn’t sure when he will be able to return. Cook left Friday’s game with symptoms and still hasn’t passed the required tests.
“Cook is still under observation, still hasn’t passed all the tests yet,” Frazier said. “So we’ll see what happens tomorrow…Just have to wait and see. You’d like for him to be out here practicing and working, and improving. But until he gets cleared, we’ve got to wait and see.”
With Cook sidelined, and possibly out for Friday’s game, Frazier said rookie cornerback Josh Robinson could see more snaps in Cook’s place.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph returned to practice Monday after also suffering from concussion symptoms, but Frazier said he had passed all the requisite tests. However, tight end John Carlson will be out another week with the sprained MCL he suffered three weeks ago. Frazier was hopeful he could return at some point this week, but he has been ruled out for Friday’s game.
“Don’t think John Carlson’s going to make it,” Frazier said. “We’re hopefully going to get him to practice some next week, but he’s not going to make it for this ballgame.”
Defensive end Everson Griffen missed Monday’s practice due to a stomach virus, but Frazier was hopeful he’d be ready to return Tuesday.