Vikings Get a Speed Infusion as Receiver Returns to Practice

Nicknamed Speedy, Jalen Nailor has the potential to play a critical role in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. The Vikings get a boost when he’s in the lineup.

Justin Jefferson is going to continue demanding the lion’s share of targets as he scorches defenses on a regular basis. Meanwhile, K.J. Osborn has shown himself to be plenty capable of working off of #18 and Jordan Addison has the potential to develop into a shifty chain-mover. Nailor, though, figures to have a very specific job: take the top off of defenses.

Unfortunately, Nailor has been struggling to do that recently since he has been healing from an injury, but the team got some good news on that front. A recent update from Alec Lewis suggests that Nailor was on the practice field to get in some work with the Vikings.

Vikings Get a Speed Infusion: Jalen Nailor

Nailor joined the Vikings as a 6th-round selection. Coming out of Michigan State, Nailor had developed a reputation as someone capable of winning deep.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2021 season, Nailor averaged 18.8 yards per reception (an eye-popping number). His 37 catches turned into 695 yards and 6 touchdowns. So, not high usage but super explosive. The year prior, he turned 26 catches into 515 yards and 4 touchdowns. The 2020 yards-per-reception average sat at a very impressive 19.8.

As a rookie, Nailor didn’t get too many opportunities. Working within an offense that boasts Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Osborn, T.J. Hockenson, and Dalvin Cook means it’s tough to get targets. Nevertheless, he did do some good things in limited opportunities. By the end of the year, Nailor had picked up 9 catches for 179 yards and a TD. The 19.9 yards-per-reception average is exactly what the Vikings are looking for with Nailor. A total of 7 of his 9 catches went for first downs.

Jalen Nailor Stock Continues to Rise
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Thankfully, he appears to be making progress in his recovery. Alec Lewis of The Athletic passed along the word: “Vikings WR Jalen Nailor is back in uniform today running out to the field with his helmet. First time in weeks. Had been nursing leg injury.”

Truthfully, it’s hard to know how serious the injury has been. The Vikings tend to be pretty cautious during the offseason but Nailor has missed a fair bit of time, so the issue couldn’t have been totally minuscule. Regardless, the important thing is that the team is seeing meaningful progress as the roster trim down date — August 29th — approaches.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) drops the ball during a kick off return against the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Optimism is high for Jalen Nailor. Josh Frey sees him as “an explosive playmaker” capable of making “plays down the field.” While caution is often best for late-round sophomores, Frey is onto something. Nailor really does offer a pile of potential, especially in a Vikings offense that would benefit from someone capable of leaving corners in the dust. Don’t expect a WR1 but a productive WR3/4 is very possible.

Minnesota will practice against the Cardinals this week before playing their final preseason game on Saturday, August 26th.

Afterwards, Kevin O’Connell has the unenviable job of sifting through a ton of receiver talent on the way down to the 53-man roster. Expect to see the second-year receiver on the final roster. He should contribute to special teams for Matt Daniels while picking up a target or two on offense.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

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