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Bradford Likes Jarius Wright's Value in Slot Against Nickels & Linebackers

MANKATO, Minn. — Slot receivers are used to arrowing their way toward the middle of the field and preparing for the football.

The large players at the position know how to box-out defenders. The smaller players rely on quickness.

Jarius Wright angled toward the middle of the field but didn't stop running toward the far sideline during Saturday's night practice.

He slipped behind nickel cornerback Mackensie Alexander and linebacker Anthony Barr, using vertical speed to smoothly glide a perfectly placed pass by Sam Bradford. The precise delivery allowed Wright to catch the football and turn up the field.

There was no one left to beat, and he had a 65-yard touchdown and cheers from the crowd.

The Vikings opened training camp with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell with the first team in three-receiver sets, but Wright stepped right in when Treadwell went down.

The senior-most Vikings receiver who is preparing for his sixth pro season has been using a blend of skills like vertical speed and lateral quickness to make plays since.

"I think that's kind of my strongpoints," Wright said. "My football intelligence and also being able to get in and out of my breaks. If you want to stretch the field, I can also be a pretty fast and quick guy. I do think I bring a lot to the game, and think I can help this offense."

Wright has played outside and inside during his time with the Vikings and said he doesn't prefer one over the other, as long as there's a way he can help the team.

"I just want to play good football and help the team," Wright said. "If that's inside, outside, whatever the team needs, I'm definitely willing to do it."

After posting at least 26 receptions and 434 yards and playing every game of each season from 2013-15, Wright's role was reduced in 2016. He was inactive for seven games and dressed but didn't play against Dallas. Wright finished with 11 receptions for 67 yards, totals that were boosted by a five-catch, one-touchdown game in the season finale.

Bradford said he thinks Wright "can be extremely valuable to us."

"His quickness and his speed in the slot, it's just nice having a guy like that in the slot out there," Bradford said. "He beats 1-on-1 coverage consistently, whether it is on some quick option-type routes or even on the deeper stuff with his vertical speed, and so to have a guy that you can use in that slot role that can both kind of take the top off the defense, or at least scare him with his vertical speed and then also work some of the underneath option-type routes.

"You can use him in a variety of ways to create some matchups that you feel like are advantageous for us," Bradford added.

The quarterback said he thinks Wright can beat nickel cornerbacks or linebackers.

"When you have a guy like that in the slot and you can get him matched up against a nickel, or for some reason they stay base and we get him out there against a linebacker, we just really like those matchups," Bradford said. I think he could be really big for us."

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