Last season rookie receiver Jarius Wright, a fourth round selection out of Arkansas, had to wait longer than expected to play a meaningful down in the NFL. While he patiently stood by for his opportunity, he soaked in the playbook as he learned about NFL defenses, looking up to one of the best young slot receivers in the game, Percy Harvin.
“He [Percy] taught me a lot,” Wright said. “A lot about defenses. Even when he was hurt he still made sure that I understood football and he was trying to help me get adapted to the game even faster.”
After sitting the first nine weeks of the regular season, Wright made an instant splash in his first NFL game against the Detroit Lions in week 10 at the Metrodome. On a play the Vikings had run a multitude of times in practice, Wright lined up in the slot and went deep down the middle beating Lions’ safety Erik Coleman for a 54-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Christian Ponder. Wright was officially on the scene.
In his rookie campaign, Wright finished the season with 22 receptions, 310 yards, and two touchdowns – He also added two carries for 11 yards. He was the first major deep threat for the Vikings in the 2012 season, completing catches of 54 and 65 yards, respectively. It’s not often a deep threat emerges out of a five-foot-10-inch receiver like Wright, but he has always been a deep threat playmaker modeling his game after players like Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson.
“When I was coming out of college and high school the people I looked up to were Steve Smith, DeSean Jackson, and even Percy Harvin,” Wright said. “I figured that they are not the tallest people on the field but they are still a deep threat and are good at doing it.”
Entering his second year in the league, Wright will have a more prominent role in the Vikings offense now that they added a plethora of receivers in the offseason. After trading Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings signed free agent receiver Greg Jennings to a five-year, $45 million contract. Minnesota then traded up in the 2013 draft to select Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th pick, a talented receiver from Tennessee.
Wright has had the opportunity to play with a couple of exceptional receivers in Percy and now Greg Jennings. The addition of Greg Jennings will be seen on the field with his playmaking, but Jennings has also been a huge help to the younger guys on the team.
“Greg Jennings has been a great help to me,” Wright said. “Whenever he sees some things that I need help with he always comes up to me and lets me know. Questions that I have for him he is always willing to answer and help me.”
As the league continues to progress and differentiate every year, slot receivers are becoming more and more vital to any premier offense. In the seven games that Wright played in last year he participated in only 206 of the 450 snaps (45.7%). With the ability to play on the outside as an emerging deep threat, as well as play the slot position, Wright will have a chance to increase his snap totals in the 2013 season.
“He [Jarius] has done a fantastic job outside the numbers as well as in the slot,” Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “He looks quick, his weight is exactly where it needs to be and the bottom line with Jarius is he knows what to do all of the time.”
Wright has had an exceptional training camp and is primed for a breakout season – A season that should have him penciled in as the number three receiver on the Vikings roster. Nobody is more pleased with the progress of Jarius Wright than offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
“He has tremendous instincts,” Bill Musgrave said. “He is a professional, he is studying his stuff, he is just a man’s man. You can count on him every single day and we are lucky to have him.