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Vikings' Laquon Treadwell shrugs off notion that 2018 is make or break

Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (11) catches a pass at training camp at Minnesota State University in August 2016. Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. — During a recent red-zone workout at Vikings organized team activities, new, high-priced quarterback Kirk Cousins rifled a pass toward the back of the end zone. Laquon Treadwell stretched out every inch of his 6-foot-3 frame and caught the ball before tumbling to the ground.

Sweet catch? "Oh yeah," Treadwell said.

Unfortunately, Treadwell hasn't made many sweet catches in games during his two seasons with the Vikings, let alone routine receptions.

After being taken with the No. 23 pick in the 2016 draft out of Mississippi, the wide receiver caught just one pass as a rookie. The Vikings talked before last season about apparent improvement, but that translated into just 20 catches for 200 yards in 16 games.

Now, the pressure is seemingly really on Treadwell to step up his game in 2018 to avoid being labeled a bust.

"It's important any time you are in your third year, it's important," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "He is continuing to get better. I think he stopped being so hard on himself and is just letting it flow now. I think that is part of it."

Treadwell, who turns 23 on June 14, shrugged off a question as to whether he believes it's a make-or-break year for him.

"I think it's a make-or-break year for everyone, not just myself," he said. "A lot of guys speak on it, every year is a new year. You've got to reprove yourself. ... I just don't put the pressure on myself as a make-or-break year."

OK, but is Treadwell confident he can make a big leap in 2018?

"I do think I'll be able to take a leap, but I wouldn't say a big leap," he said. "I mean, I just feel like every year you're going to experience different things."

Minnesota has one of the NFL's top receiving combos in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. After those two, there is a need for a No. 3 receiver to step up.

That didn't really happen last year when Treadwell, Michael Floyd and Jarius Wright competed for the role. Floyd and Wright are gone but the Vikings have signed Kendall Wright, who has become Treadwell's primary competition for the No. 3 spot. Kendall Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards with the Tennessee Titans in 2013 and last year had 59 receptions for 614 yards with the Chicago Bears.

Treadwell has been working plenty with the first team during OTAs, and he has caught the eye of Cousins.

"Every day we've learned new things and taken steps together," Cousins said. "I'm excited to see what he can do now going into his third year, and hopefully continue to get him more and more involved."

In his first two seasons, Treadwell said he had a lot to learn. That has included the realization the NFL is a business.

"As a professional, you've got to know how to communicate and, I guess, interact with the coaches and teammates. ... Before, in college, you can just play, go home, get the W, whatever, kick it, hang out, whatever," Treadwell said. "It's just a different level, and I think you have to be mentally sharp with that. I think that's the biggest thing I've learned."

Treadwell caught 202 passes for 2,393 yards in three seasons at Ole Miss. He suffered a season-ending broken left tibia and dislocated left ankle in a Nov. 1, 2014 game against Auburn that Treadwell has admitted affected him two years later as a NFL rookie. In making the transition to the NFL, Treadwell said he has learned patience.

"I had a lot to learn," he said. "I was young. Coming in here, a lot of guys are much older than you, much more experienced. ... I just knew eventually hard work and continuing to learn and continue to seek advice, and continue to listen to coaches, it would play out. So I never let frustration come in because I know I can always be better. .. No reason to be mad. You won't grow when you're mad."

Treadwell is under contract in 2018 for a fully guaranteed $1.35 million. For 2019, $1.15 million of his $1.8 million deal is on the books as guaranteed.

The Vikings will need to decide next May whether to pick up Treadwell's fifth-year option for 2020. How he plays this season will decide his if he has a future in Minnesota.

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