EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- In trying to decide who'll start at the No. 2 receiver spot, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice is running out of factors to weigh.
For one, he can't decide by results, because not many have been produced. So he's down to one last option.
"It's just going to be a call that I'm going to make with (offensive coordinator) Scott (Linehan) and decide who is accepting the fact that I'm on their butt better and who is not pouting and then we'll go from there," he said.
Sounds strange, but it's actually better than looking at statistics.
Both D'Wayne Bates and Derrick Alexander have been disappointing this season taking their turns as the starter opposite Randy Moss. Bates has 13 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown. Alexander's numbers are even worse: 11 catches, 103 yards and one score. Both caught their only touchdowns in Week 2 against Buffalo.
And with opposing teams clamping down on Moss, the Vikings passing offense, which has owned a reputation over the past few years as being one of the best in the NFL, has yet to rank in the league's top 10 this season. This week, it's ranked 12th, the highest rating so far.
Receivers coach Charlie Baggett has a simple solution:
"They have to catch the football when it's thrown to them," he said.
After Cris Carter's departure, the Vikings shopped the free agent market to find receivers worthy to take the future Hall of Famer's spot. They came up with Alexander, a veteran with impressive career stats, and Bates, a Chicago Bears backup eager for a chance to break out.
Alexander was originally projected to be the starter. But Bates took the spot in training camp after Alexander was injured -- Tice openly criticized Alexander for his slow recovery.
Then, in Week 4, Alexander was given starting duties as Bates failed to produce results.
Besides taking over the duties, Alexander apparently also inherited the struggles. On Sunday against Detroit, he had one pass slip through his hands and into the grasp of Chris Claiborne, who ran it back for a touchdown.
"Those kind of things we can't afford," Baggett said.
Against the New York Jets this weekend, Tice said Bates will probably return to the starting lineup.
"This game will really be a chance to diversify the offense and get more people involved besides Randy for a change," Bates said.
Adding to the frustrations, Tice also is disappointed in the lack of results produced by Minnesota's three-receivers set. Earlier this season, it looked like the Vikings would be able to wreak havoc in opposing secondaries with Moss, Bates and Alexander all lined up together.
"Now it's turned out that we're getting more productivity out of our three wide receiver package in the run and not as much productivity as I'd like in the pass," he said.
As Tice tries to shake things up, veteran Chris Walsh may get the chance to take Alexander's spot in the package. On Thursday, Tice said Walsh, Bates and Alexander all worked in the set.
"At this point, we'll look at the film again and see who's competing the best and then we'll go from there. I'm sure all three will play," Tice said.
But it hasn't just been Bates and Alexander. Moss has his share of dropped passes this season, he had four drops in the end zone against Seattle.
"What we have to do is take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves," Baggett said.
To the receivers' credit, their opportunities haven't been as good as in past years. The reason: the lack of a strong, consistent running game. The passing offense was at its best when now-retired Robert Smith was keeping opposing defenses off-balance.
Since Smith's retirement, Michael Bennett has struggled to pick up the slack, although the second-year back is coming on as of late. And if Daunte Culpepper can keep picking up his performance, the receivers should start seeing more passes thrown their way.
"We've just got to be ready to make the play," Bates said. "Even if our number's not called, we've got to be ready to meet the opportunity."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.