EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Martin Nance has always looked like a receiver.
At 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds, he is the most physically imposing pass catcher on the Minnesota Vikings roster.
Yet he didn't make the Buffalo Bills out of training camp as an undrafted free agent in 2006 and spent the next two years on the Vikings practice squad while he struggled to learn the playbook and perfect his routes.
Now in his third year in Minnesota, Nance is starting to play like a receiver, too.
He had three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's victory over the Ravens and is making a serious push for a roster spot.
``He is a really, really good player,'' wide receiver Bobby Wade said. ``I think it obviously took him a couple years just to get adapted. But I think he's made it his personal thing to make sure he displays his talent consistently.''
Consistency has been the issue for Nance early in his career. After leaving Miami of Ohio as the No. 3 ranked receiver in school history despite missing time with injuries, Nance has struggled occasionally to sustain momentum after a good day at practice.
``That's what I really focused on. Just knowing that when my number is called I can answer,'' Nance said. ``That's what I've tried to focus on and I feel pretty confident with that right now.''
Having a game like he did against the Ravens certainly helps. Nance showed the body control of a veteran when he kept both feet inbound while catching a 23-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson in the first quarter.
Later in the first half, Nance recognized an all-out blitz coming from the Ravens and knew he would have single coverage on the outside. Backup quarterback Gus Frerotte hit him in stride for a 32-yard completion that Nance acknowledged probably would not have happened a year ago.
``That's definitely some development,'' Nance said. ``The coaches have done a great job preparing us and giving us an opportunity to learn how to recognize that type of a blitz. It just shows the development in our offense.''
It's all about familiarity for Nance, who finds himself in a tight race for a spot on the active roster.
Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade and Aundrae Allison are the first four receivers on the depth chart, and veteran Robert Ferguson likely will be the fifth to make the team because of his ability on special teams and as a leader of the unit.
So if coach Brad Childress decides to keep six receivers, Nance is likely battling rookies Darius Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson.
``He's in a position where he's making those decisions tough, and that's what we ask of all those guys,'' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ``Compete hard, give us everything they have and make those decisions at the end tough.''
The guy with the final say has liked what he has seen from Nance.
``He's a tall target, so the quarterbacks don't have any trouble finding him,'' Childress said. ``He's got kind of sneaky speed. He's a long-stride guy and he can chew up some ground pretty quick on you.''
Nance leads all Vikings receivers with four catches for 88 yards in the preseason. That kind of production, preseason or not, has to be recognized on a group of receivers that did not have a 100-yard game last season.
Now that he has the playbook down and a good rapport with Jackson and Frerotte, Nance hopes to be the one to break that dubious streak in the regular season. He has only played in one game that counted in his two-year career, when he had four catches for 33 yards in the season finale against St. Louis in 2006.
His next chance to make an impression comes on Saturday night in the team's third game of the preseason against Pittsburgh.
``I feel really comfortable in terms knowing the offense and knowing what's expected of me,'' Nance said. ``So now I feel like I can get out there and play and do what I know I'm capable of.''
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