I’ve recorded a video of my predictions about what Minnesota Vikings’ final roster will look like rather than write because it’s faster. 🙂
I have to admit I was amped up to watch Brett Favre‘s debut as a Viking, if for no other reason than the strange spectacle of seeing him in purple.
The debut itself turned out to be anticlimactic if not predictable. Expected to play just one series, Favre returned for another after his first was cut short by Naufahu Tahi‘s missed block (one of three for the night). The offense played like one that had had only a few days of practice with a new quarterback. It will take more than a few days for receivers and quarterback to adjust to one another.
What Favre did show has got to be encouraging for Vikings fans.
You wouldn’t know that from reading an AP piece published shortly after the game, though. That piece placed the blame for the lack of offensive production squarely on Favre’s shoulders, saying he missed on all but one pass and even the completion was barely catchable:
His first pass was off target, intended for fullback Naufahu Tahi. Rookie Percy Harvin snagged a low throw into tight coverage on the next play, setting up fourth-and-1 near midfield. But Adrian Peterson, who carried 10 times for 44 yards, was smothered in the backfield for a big loss.
Favre was off the mark twice more on the next possession, misfiring toward Jaymar Johnson after an apparent route miscommunication and then chucking one out of everyoneâ€™s reach on the pressure by May
Well, that’s the easy story to write; the one you can file in time for your post-game deadline. But it was hardly accurate.
The pass to Tahi was thrown to the opposite side of the defender, to an open space where had Tahi adjusted, he could’ve caught the ball. The completion to Harvin was thrown in tight between two defenders; throwing the ball low greatly reduces the odds of it being picked off, it’s harder for the defenders to get to and if the ball is tipped by the receiver or defender, it is much more likely to hit the ground than to pop up in the air where it can be easily intercepted. The pass to Johnson was similar to the one to Tahi, away from the defender but catchable if the receiver adjusts. The only pass that was possibly errant was the last one when Favre was hurred by a linebacker blitz; even that one was thrown to an empty space in the field where it wouldn’t be picked off.
This type of sports “reporting” drives me nuts. It reveals one of two things: 1) Laziness or 2) a failure of understanding of the game.
Anyway, Vikings fans should be encouraged that they now have not just a veteran, but a Hall of Fame-quality quarterback who knows exactly what to do with the ball.
We should also be encouraged by the play of Tavaris Jackson. After a familiar shaky start, Jackson directed two impressive scoring drives that had offense running on all cylinders. But then that’s been his thing; shaky…impressive, shaky…impressive. Jackson needs to show consistently sound decision making before he’ll inspire enough confidence from coaches, let alone Vikings fans…and throwing the ball from five yards beyond the line of scrimmage doesn’t cut it.
Rookie reciever Percy Harvin proved he can catch the ball, a receivers’ skill Vikings fans are a bit insecure about since the Troy Williamson fiasco.
Thankfully for the audience, the game turned into an exciting one after the disappointment of the opening two series.
I’ll leave you with a Brad Childress dream, as mashed up by nadasfan:
Let’s call the Tarvaris Jackson experiment what it looks like, a failure.
I was hoping that last week’s inaccuracy was simply rust from not having played much during the pre-season. But it really didn’t look like rust; it looked like inaccuracy.
I had a lot of hope for Jackson after seeing his play before he was injured in the pre-season. He looked decisive, hit is receivers in stride, and if he still didn’t seem to have the touch on the long ball, at least it looked like he was making solid progress.
It appears not.
The thing with Jackson is that he’ll have streaks where he’ll play wonderfully but those streaks are short and woefully infrequent. For a coach who stresses consistency from all his players, the question this afternoon is whether he’ll hold his starting quarterback to the same standard.
I’ve long lamented that Jackson just has not found the touch for an accurate long ball. As a result, we don’t quite know what we’ve got in Bernard Berrian. More importantly, no one’s afraid of us making them pay for playing eight or ten in the box. When Jackson throws the long ball, he throws it practically straight up, creating a huge arc that gives defenders enough time to recover and forcing his receivers to slow down in adjustment.
Because it appeared Jackson was making progress in other areas of his game, I figured the long ball would come eventually. But Jackson has become inaccurate on practically every pass. He’s throwing behind receivers on the slant. He’s missing receivers on the out. He’s sailing passes thrown to receivers in the flat. He’s throwing passes at his receivers’ feet.
Jackson doesn’t seem to have a feel for how a screen pass develops and when he throws the screen, half the time the ball comes to the receiver at a downward slope and as a bullet. That’s a hard ball to catch.
Jackson never looks downfield on a swing pass. He stares at the running back from the snap of the ball and lofts a soft and airy pass to the back, giving defenders enough time to tackle the guy for a loss, or at best, at the line of scrimmage. The play is useless because Jackson doesn’t sell it.
The one play that has consistently worked for him, the play-action bootleg, has become predictable for that very reason. Defenses are on to it.
When your quarterback can’t make all–or even many–of the throws, you need to scale down the playbook to those plays he’s capable of executing. And that makes your passing offense predictable.
When you hold Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to 15 points for nearly four quarters and your offense plays most of the game in Colts’ territory yet you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When you’ve got an awesome offensive line (and TJax had plenty of time today), four talented receivers, and both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and you can’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When Adrian Peterson racks up 180 all-purpose yards (160 on the ground) and you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When the Colts’ entire offensive line are backups and starting tight end Dallas Clark is on the bench; when their starting defensive tackle is out, and Bob Sanders, their star safety, leaves the game yet you still lose, there’s something wrong.
When your defensive line is up in Manning’s grill all day and you get two picks and you still lose the game, there’s something wrong.
You can point to Ryan Longwell‘s last, missed, field goal attempt. You can blame (and please do) the loss on Visanthe Shiancoe for dropping another touchdown. But this game should’ve been a blowout. The only reason it wasn’t was because our quarterback could not make Indianapolis pay for their obsession with Adrian Peterson.
I’ve said the Vikings should be fine at quarterback and I still think we can be. But the reason I said that is the presence on our roster of one Gus Frerotte. He’s a veteran quarterback who can read defenses and make sound decisions. He may not be all that mobile, but I’ll take accurate over mobile in an instant. He may not have the rocket arm of Tarvaris Jackson, but what good is power if you can’t put the ball in your receivers’ hands?
There is more than enough talent on this offense to win (if Shiancoe sticks to blocking) and win now. We don’t have to blow out opponents like we did back when Frerotte et. al. were playing pitch and catch with Randy Moss. We just need to score a touchdown or three and let the defense do the rest. It doesn’t look like we can do that with Jackson at the helm.
It’s time to free Gus Frerotte.
Unless you want to gamble another season on the chance that Jackson might develop into a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, never mind a franchise quarterback, then free Frerotte.
It’s awfully hard to have a winning season when you start it off 0-3 or 0-4. If you want to salvage this season, then free Frerotte.
If you want to be coaching next year, free Frerotte.
I would take Brett Favre as the Vikings starting quarterback this season. In a second. How could you not? The guy is a Hall of Famer and a gamer and, difficult as it is for some Vikings fans to admit, he’s fun as hell to watch play. Landing Favre would seem like a long shot for the Vikes.
But I’ve been thinking since shortly after this story first broke that Favre could make life so difficult for the Packers that they’d just want to get rid of him. It looks like he’s well on his way to doing that.
Despite the Packers’ insistence that Farve is welcome back at any time, they really don’t mean that because Farve’s behavior has had to have already poisoned the locker room. You gotta think there are plenty of players who are thinking, wait a minute, instead of making a run like we did last year we’re going to break in a new quarterback? Packer’s players are certainly thinking that they’d have a much better chance of getting to the Super Bowl this year with Farve than not, and management doesn’ want Farve. Thus, management doesn’t want to win.
Add to that, that Farve clearly doesn’t want to return to Green Bay; he’s burned that bridge. Farve has to approve any trade so if he really wants to play in Purple (and, the Vikings are the best team for him to unretire to), he could force the Packers’ hand to either release him or make a trade with Minnesota in order to remove the distraction.
But even if we don’t land Favre, we’re still set a quarterback. I think Tarvaris Jackson has enough talent to be a qood quarterback, it’s just a question of his understanding of the game and his ability to keep his cool. If he can understand what defenses are trying to do and if he doesn’t get flustered under pressure, he should be fine because we’re not asking him to do a lot.
All he has to do is burn opposing defenses once or twice a game and then let Adrian Peterson do all the work.
But even if Jackson falters, we’ve still got Gus Frerotte waiting in the wings. Sure, he’s no Brett Favre but he’s no Tarvaris Jackson, either. He’s a veteran quarterback who is capable of taking a talented team far into the playoffs by avoiding mistakes and making a great play here and there. And, by the way, he’s a far better player than Super Bowl quarterback Rex Grossman.
So: We good.
After last week, when they had a chance to lock up their playoff spot, it’s sorta pointless to talk about or get your hopes up for a Vikings post-season this year. They could come out and stink or they could play wonderfully and still not make it with a motived Redskins team playing Dallas‘ second-stringers.
So absent the burden and frustration of phantom playoff hopes, my interest will be focused narrowly on my hope for a 400 yard rushing game for Peterson and improved play for Tarvaris Jackson. And one probably depends upon the other.
The Denver Broncos‘ defense is 30th in the league against the run but even a really bad defense can improve significantly against the run by deploying eight or nine men in the box. So we’ll see, but there’s plenty of reason to hope for a big ground game for the Vikings and for Adrian Peterson in particular.
The one thing the Vikings will have to do for Peterson to have a big day, of course, will be to make the Broncos pay for stacking the box. And that depends upon Jackson making those plays, something he hasn’t done consistently.
Maybe the Vikings should come out in no-receiver sets. Sit the receivers in favor of tight ends and fullbacks and maybe an extra offensive lineman. Say to the Broncos, we’re running the ball; try and stop us. It ain’t gonna happen but I’d love to see it.
Peterson needs only 12 yards to overtake Pittsburgh‘s Willie Parker, who is out for the season. But in order to win the title, Adrian will have to significantly outplay LaDainian Tomlinson who has 1,418 yards to Peterson’s 1,305. The problem is that the Chargers play the Oakland Raiders today.
In the passing game, I want to see Jackson make better decisions and not get flustered in the face of a heavy rush. He seems to do just fine when he’s got sufficient time in the pocket, but he’s going to have to learn play well under pressure.
Those are my modest hopes at the end of a disappointing season.
Things seem to be falling the Vikings‘ way today. Philadelphia beat the Saints and, playing for home-field advantage (and this time of year, playing at Lambeau is a decided advantage), the Packers had their ass handed to them by the Bears.
With a win tonight, the Vikings will clinch a playoff berth.
But the Redskins scare me.
They are ninth against the run, so it’s going to be a tough game tonight. They will probably not have to put eight or nine men in the box to stop the run, which means it will be more difficult for Tarvaris Jackson to make them pay.
The Vikings offensive line will need to play much better tonight than they did last week, especially Matt Birk. Birk was man-handled by the Bears back-up defensive tackle last week. Despite Washington’s tough run D, the Vikings are going to have to pound the ball often to make the play-action work. And, by the way, there’s always an excellent chance of Adrian Peterson ripping off a long TD run or two. He nearly had two last week.
How bout a dual backfield with both Peterson and Chester Taylor and let the Redskins pick their poison about who they want to stop? I’ve been waiting for this all season and I think today is the day to implement it.
The Redskins are 18th against the pass, so there’s a good chance we’ll see Jackson toss the ball with some frequency but he’ll have to avoid the mistakes he made against the Bears last week. He’ll also be without wide receiver Sidney Rice.
This is a game where it will be a huge advantage to get out on top early and then pummel the Skins to demoralize them early. I wouldn’t be surprised to see BevelChildress call a trick play on the fist series.
What scares me the most about Washington, though, is Todd Collins.
First, since he hasn’t started in 10 years, there’s precious little tape of the guy, so the Vikings defense has had one and a half games worth of material with which to prepare for him. Second, Collins has been in the same system for years, so presumably he knows his offense inside and out. Lastly, the Vikings have historically played poorly against backup QBs.
Washington has the 11th ranked rushing offense and despite boasting a dangerous duo of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, but I’m only concerned with them to the degree that they are able to set up a credible play-action.
The Redskins have the 4th worst special teams unit, so Aundrae Allison could have a big game returning kicks. And that could prove to be the difference in this game.
I expect most of this game will be a fight for field position, tough and close. The single most promising thing that emerged from last week’s game was that the Vikings played badly but still found a way to overcome their poor play and turnovers to win the game. That’s something we haven’t seen in a while.
I don’t know that I buy into the Vikings being the hottest team going into the playoffs, as so many national pundits have proclaimed them to be, but a win tonight will go a long way toward convincing me.
Among the criticisms Star Tribune‘s sports columnist Jim Souhan has of Tarvaris Jackson‘s performance Monday night is that the QB would "bail out on a game because of a leg cramp, as he did Monday night."
This kind of stuff drives me nuts. I can only assume that Souhan does not play football or perhaps any sport because he clearly doesn’t understand how a leg cramp feels.
It doesn’t last long but it hurts a lot and freaks you out even more because your body is behaving in a way it does not usually behave. It’s not a condition with which you can effectively play.
There was plenty to criticize about Jackson’s game but taking himself out for a few plays because of painful and disruptive leg cramps is not one of them.
And is Souhan had had just a bit of experience with the sport he writes about, he’d understand that.
Update: Add Patrick Reusse to the list of desk jockey sports writers: "Against Chicago, Jackson threw three interceptions, had a quarterback
rating of 50.0 and bailed out with a cramp when his team was inside the
10 on the winning touchdown drive."
Update II: Sadly, add the Star Tribune’s generally very good Vikings beat writer Kevin Seifert to the list: "…oddly succumbing to leg cramps in the Vikings’ 20-13 victory over the Chicago Bears at the Metrodome."
The offensive line has excelled since Anthony Herrera was inserted into the starting lineup. Tarvaris Jackson is maturing, realizing that he needs to study more. It’s showing. And then there’s the rookie phenom of the decade, Adrian Peterson.
Peterson has amazed us since the first game of the season, long before our offensive line pulled it together and became an machine. So with the line opening up gaping holes, the receivers opening things up with their downfield blocking, and the credible threat of a passing game, could Adrian Peterson run for 400 yards in a game, as I suggested last week?
I really don’t see why not, especially today. While the 49ers are not the least effective team against the rush, they rank 27th in the NFL against the rush. They are giving up 124 yards a game to running backs not named Adrian Peterson. And there’s the rub.
Such gawdy numbers are not all that implausible when you consider that the guy had 361 all-purpose yards against the Chargers. All Peterson needs to do is rip of three or four long runs–a feat for which he’s entirely capable–and he’s easily within striking distance of four hundred.
The Vikings need to account for 49ers cornerback Nate Clements and their outstanding rookie linebacker, Patrick Willis. Willis has 128 tackles and the season ain’t over yet. He’s supposed to be a sideline-to-sideline terror so watch for the Vikings to run between the tackles today, right at him and bet that our offensive line and Adrian Peterson can overpower him.
I absolutely believe Peterson can run for 400 yards in one game. The greatest limitation to that accomplishment may very well be Brad Childress himself by pulling Peterson before he’s through.
Let’s remember that the last three games the Vikings have played were against the dreadful Oakland Raiders, against the New York Giants and Eli Manning on possibly the worst game of his career, and the free-falling Detroit Lions.
That said, the Vikings have been an infinitely more palatable team to watch during this winning streak.
The Vikings Offensive Line
Not coincidentally, the offensive line has been awesome for the past three games. It looks like we’ve found our starters on the right side with guard Anthony Herrera and tackle Ryan Cook. Cook took care of Michael Strahan in the Giants game and has been burying people on the run blocking.
But the single biggest improvement has come at the quarterback position, and that makes a huge difference.
I’ve been about as critical of Brad Childress as can be over playing Jackson when he clearly wasn’t ready to play. And I’ve complained that Jackson has not even shown any progress thus far.
Well, he has now. During the New York game, he wasn’t spectacular, but he made no mistakes and he did connect with Sidney Rice on a long bomb, a pass he hadn’t been able to make till then. Against the Lions, it wasn’t just that he kept the mistakes to a minimum (his only mistake was the interception), he actually showed progress in his development. A lot of it.
Nearly all of Jackson’s passes were dead-on accurate; he threw with touch when that was required and drilled it in there when he needed a bullet. He knew when to pull the ball down and run it and when he did, he knew how to slide to avoid the big hit. He made some plays with his athleticism, but it wasn’t his weapon of first choice.
Jackson showed pocket presence; he stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and looked comfortable doing so. That’s the first time I’ve seen him looking natural in the pocket, feeling the pressure, and sliding around to avoid it. His timing passes were right on time.
Jackson has been looking off defenders and he read the blitzes accurately and got the ball to the right receivers to make the defense pay. His decision making was superb.
Maybe the Vikings coaches have scaled down the playbook to the plays with which Jackson is most comfortable, or the offensive line has started to click, or maybe the game just begun to slow down for Jackson. Whatever it is, I hope it continues because Jackson actually looked great against the Lions.
It helps enormously, of course, to have Adrian Peterson back in the lineup. The guy has missed two games, yet he still leads the league in rushing. He was his usual self against the Lions: 116 yards on 15 carries.
Let me just get this on the record: Adrian Peterson will run for 400 yards in a game this season and his best chance of doing that will be this Sunday against the 49ers.
There, I said it.
On defense, the Vikes are blitzing a lot more but are not getting burned because they do such an incredible job of disguising their defense. Greenway and Henderson and Smith will creep up to the line of scrimmage, showing blitz, and hold…hold…hold…until the second before the sack and then drop into coverage. Two plays later they’ll show the same look and come with a full on blitz.
The artistry of maintaining a look until the very last second is helping to confuse opposing quarterbacks. The Vikings D is getting plenty of pressure now, just not with their front four. The nice thing is, with the offense now seemingly capable of scoring a lot, the defense can afford to lay off the blitzes and just bring pressure with the front four because they’re backed by a big lead.
It’s clear that the Vikings gained a lot of confidence by trouncing the Giants and that carried over into the Detroit game. That helps a lot. You play a lot better when you’re confident you’re going to play well.
I hate to get my hopes up because I’ve done that too often with this team, but considering the Vikings’ remaining schedule, they have every reason to be confident. Everyone they have left to play this year is a losing team.
The Vikings have actually drafted very well during the Childress era. We got Adrian Peterson (who fell to us, it should be noted), Sidney Rice, Marcus McCauley, Brian Robison, and Aundrae Allison. All of them have started this season and all of them look like they could develop into consistent starters.
But it is Jackson who is the exception to our generally exceptional
drafts. During the 2006 draft, Childress moved up by trading two third
round picks to position the team to reach deep into the sixth round and
pick Jackson with the 64th overall pick of the draft. No one expected Jackson to go that high, not even the quarterback himself.
The last time an NFL team drafted a I-AA quarterback, his name was Spergon Wynn.
The reach would be easier to swallow if 1) it wasn’t such a crucial position, 2) we had a backup quarterback plan, or 3) there was some glimmer of hope that Jackson could become a franchise quarterback and remain healthy.
Not only has Jackson often looked like he is in over his head but worse, there doesn’t seem to be any improvement to his game.