Dede Westbrook was one of the most dynamic players in the country during his time at the University of Oklahoma. He usually makes short passes near the melee line and makes the opponent’s defense look stupid in the process of reaping huge gains.
His performance is undeniable: In his senior season, 80 catches for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was nominated as a finalist for the 2016 Heisman Trophy and finished fourth after quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, DeShawn Watson and Baker Mayfield.
No wonder the Vikings were so ecstatic that they added the 27-year-old Westbrook to their roster this offseason. Although he hasn’t proven to be that exciting in the NFL—his entire career has been spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars—he still has a lot to like about his work.
“He played a lot of football,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “He is a plug-and-play and ready-to-use person. More is to continue to give him these opportunities. I’m really happy about what he can do for us.”
The biggest issue surrounding Westbrook right now is his health. He suffered a serious knee injury last season, and the Vikings coach Eric Sugarman has been training him slowly for the past month.
However, if there are any signs in the past few weeks, Westbrook will go all out in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 12. He gradually started to increase his participation in training, and recently got some representation in the offense of the first team.
Although he left the training camp behind KJ Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette for the No. 3 catcher position, Westbrook’s experience is likely to put him ahead of two players on the depth map at some point.
“He has been practicing lately, so we are really excited about him,” said offensive coordinator Clint Kubiak. “He can play a lot of positions, and (receiver coach) Keenan McCadler made him really ready to play in all positions in this offense. He got some valuable practice representatives, which gave us confidence. .”
It seems that it is only a matter of time before Westbrook becomes the weapon of the Vikings. He thrived in this role early in his career, using his amazing speed and outstanding speed to complete 66 catches for 717 yards in 2018, and then 66 catches for 660 yards in 2019.
In addition, even if Westbrook does not immediately see the offensive end, he will almost certainly immediately contribute to the special team. Although Secret Service Coordinator Ryan Ficken refused to state this in the record, it sounds like he will be the starting punt returner.
“I don’t want to give up too much,” he said. “We have some very talented people on our list who will be able to perform these duties. It could be a committee. We have an idea of the way forward, and we will evaluate it next week.”
When asked a follow-up question specifically about Westbrook’s role in that role, it was difficult for Ficon not to tip his hand.
“I am very comfortable with him,” he said. “This is not his first NFL game as a punt returnee. He has succeeded in this area, and this is part of the reason we want to bring him here to compete.”