Stats show inconsistency of receiver targets

Who is Donovan McNabb's go-to receiver? Good question, because he hasn't established one from one week to the next, leading to a lack of rapport with any single receiver.

As part of the statistically-based world of sports, we get to know what a baseball player's batting average is when he has two strikes on him. It's no different in the NFL.

There is a measure of the importance of receivers to the passing game that is called targeting. For every reception, there is a corresponding stat. But, for every incompletion, there is also a stat. Targets don't necessarily mean that a receiver should catch every pass thrown his way. As Vikings fans can attest, shortly before 30,000 said "booooooo!" at the same time following a Donovan McNabb pass, 60,000 people said "Yikes!" They learned the hard way why Brad Childress compared Tarvaris Jackson to McNabb.

What has made the Vikings offense so frustrating is where passes are being directed. Most top quarterbacks have a go-to receiver. Tom Brady has Wes Welker. Matthew Stafford has Megatron. Who does McNabb have?

That depends. If the question is: Who does he throw to when he wants or needs a completion? Michael Jenkins has caught 20 of 24 passes in which he was the target. Percy Harvin has been targeted 26 times, catching 18 of them. That's where the good news ends.

Visanthe Shiancoe has been targeted 24 times and just 11 of them have been completed. Many of those incompletions have been the result of poorly thrown passes, but it stinks of being passes that are being forced.

Worse yet is Bernard Berrian. He has been targeted 16 times. As most Vikings fans already know, he has just two catches – despite his contention that he has been open for four years.

The lack of continuity in the Vikings offense has been ongoing because there has yet to be any significant rapport between McNabb and his receivers. Against Detroit, Jenkins was targeted 11 times, catching nine of them for 88 yards. The following week, he was targeted just once. Shiancoe has had two games in which he has been targeted two times or less. Kyle Rudolph has shown flashes of big-play ability, but has been targeted once or no times in three of the five games.

It's clear that the Vikings aren't going to have a go-to receiver like Sidney Rice was for Brett Favre. But, until the Vikings find a way to get their top receivers consistently involved from one week to the next, the passing game is going to continue to sputter, as players emerge and disappear from one week to the next.

SATURDAY NOTES

  • Next week could be crucial to a Vikings stadium drive. Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to meet with legislative leaders Monday and representatives of the NFL on Tuesday. We should know by the end of the week whether there will be enough support to warrant a special session to get approval of the Arden Hills stadium site or if the quagmire will continue.

  • Antoine Winfield is listed as doubtful after missing practice all week with a neck injury. He isn't expected to play Sunday.

  • Harvin is listed as questionable with a rib injury, but practiced on a limited basis Friday and is expected to play.

  • Three Bears – DE Julius Peppers (knee), OT Gabe Carimi (knee) and DT Matt Toeaina (knee) – didn't practice all week. Carimi and Toeaina have already been ruled out and Peppers is listed as doubtful, which will weaken the Bears on both sides of the line.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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