NFL: Shiancoe delivers for Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS -- The grumbling started when Visanthe Shiancoe dropped a pass in Minnesota's season opener against Green Bay and grew louder after he dropped a touchdown pass against Indianapolis the following week, prompting questions about whether...
MINNEAPOLIS -- The grumbling started when Visanthe Shiancoe dropped a pass in Minnesota's season opener against Green Bay and grew louder after he dropped a touchdown pass against Indianapolis the following week, prompting questions about whether the Vikings' tight end should be benched.
Bashing of Shiancoe, however, has quieted as he's become more reliable and a bigger threat in the passing game. Shiancoe's improvement after a shaky debut with the Vikings in 2007 and at the start of this season means he is on pace for a career year.
"It's a process, man," Shiancoe said. "Now that I'm comfortable with the offense, I feel like I'm running with it. No need to panic."
Shiancoe has 17 receptions for 223 yards, and his three touchdown catches are a career high and are the second most among tight ends. San Diego's Antonio Gates has four.
In Sunday's 48-41 loss to the Chicago Bears, Shiancoe had four catches for 68 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. He also held onto the ball after taking a big shot on a catch over the middle.
Shiancoe finally is providing the kind of production the Vikings envisioned after signing him last offseason to a five-year, $18.2 million contract that includes $7 million in guarantees.
"I think he gets more and more comfortable," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "You see his opportunities around the ball increase. The more he does the more you're looking to create things for him to do. I don't think that he's thinking anywhere near as much as he had to last year, and you can see some of his God-given ability."
Shiancoe's talent was overshadowed by ill-timed dropped passes last season, when he caught 27 passes for 323 yards and one touchdown. He dropped three potential touchdown passes, drawing the ire of a fans who expected more from a big-money free agent.
The criticism intensified after Shiancoe dropped three passes in the first three games this season. He's been reliable since.
"Everybody in the locker room has seen me do this," he said. "I've been there, done that. Everybody sees it every day during practice."
The Vikings want Shiancoe to play an important role in their version of the West Coast offense, which utilizes a lot of underneath routes. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian's recent emergence on the outside also should help because his speed opens the middle more for Shiancoe. Two of Shiancoe's touchdown catches have come on seam routes, and he is averaging 13.1 yards per catch.
Just as important: Shiancoe has earned the trust of quarterback Gus Frerotte.
"I tell all those guys, 'Just because you drop one doesn't mean I'm not going to come back and throw it to you,' " Frerotte said. "I'm going through my reads and I'm throwing the ball where I need to throw it in those situations. You just don't ever want to make a guy think he's never going to catch a ball again because he drops one. It happens, it's a physical game. Whether somebody hits you right when you're catching it or you just flat-out drop one."
Shiancoe has experienced both kinds. He said eliminating those is part of his "learning process."
"Going through the middle you have to expect to get hit," he said. "You have to be able to hold onto the ball. You have to expect to get hit. I'm expecting that hit."