Vikings receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette has the kind of speed that stresses defenses

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Vikings receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette was something of ghost during his rookie season in the NFL.

After being taken in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he played very sparingly before bursting onto the scene with 103 receiving yards and a touchdown in the season finale against the Chicago Bears.

That gave Smith-Marsette some confidence heading into this season, and while he suffered a minor injury in the spring, he entered training camp feeling 100 percent. And that has shown on the field as he’s already managed to turn some heads.

While there have been some growing pains here and there over the past week, Smith-Marsette has showcased his unteachable speed on multiple occasions, looking like someone who could be an impact player in coach Kevin O’Connell’s new offense.

“It was a roller coaster as a rookie,” said Smith-Marsette, who impressively was timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds coming out of the University of Iowa. “Just being in and out, in and out, in and out. It’s been good being able to come out here and not stress about the little things like what people think of me and stuff like that. Just going out there and being myself.”

As of right now it looks like Smith-Marsette is behind K.J. Osborn in the battle for the No. 3 receiver. That said, Smith-Marsette has speed on his side, which is something the Vikings will definitely try to use to their advantage.

“You can get some matchups sometimes,” offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. “You hear defenses when there’s a three-receiver set, they’re calling out, ‘Hey, they’ve got speed at three.’ Because in certain coverages, split-safety coverages, some teams are asking that (middle linebacker) to carry (the No. 3 receiver) vertical.”

That’s where Smith-Marsette might be able to do some damage. You know what they say about speed.

“He’s able to stretch the defenses (and) put that vertical push on defenders to get them scared of his speed,” Osborn said. “He’s just a really dangerous weapon for us to have on offense.”

That’s not the only thing Osborn has noticed about Smith-Marsette.

“His route-running has got a lot better,” Osborn said. “He’s worked on that, and we can see it out here. He looks good.”

Asked about his growth since last season, Smith-Marsette credited fellow receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. He said he’s been trying to be a sponge as much as possible. It appears to be paying off.

“I’m getting back to playing football,” Smith-Marsette said. “Just going out there and not thinking as much. I just feel confident in all my abilities going out there and doing what I do. There’s no second-guessing anymore. I’m just going out there, being myself and playing football.”

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