08-20-2006, 08:57 AM #1
Sunday's Star Tribune Articles (Post them here)
[size=10pt]Scoring pass improves Jackson's grade[/size]
Last update: August 20, 2006 â€“ 6:48 AM
PITTSBURGH -The education of Tarvaris Jackson continued Saturday night at Heinz Field, where Jackson continued his bid to win the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback job.
Jackson completed nine of 11 passes for 80 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jason Carter. Entering the game with 8 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the first half, Jackson played one series with the Vikings' first-team offense, completing three of four passes for 19 yards on that drive.
Erstwhile backup Mike McMahon managed only one completion in seven attempts before being unexpectedly benched. But afterward, coach Brad Childress tried to dampen suggestions that Jackson was pulling away from McMahon in their competition.
"I wouldn't say he's put some distance between them, but his play speaks for itself," Childress said. "He's played fairly well the last couple of weeks, and this was another experience for him."
As for McMahon, who threw a bad interception in the third quarter, Childress said: "That would truly be a case of going back to see if he had pressure in his lap. Did he have precise route running? I don't think you necessarily take the numbers for what they are. But also, possession of the football. I'd rather see him throw it in the stands than throw it to [the opponent]."
Safety Willie Offord had his right wrist X-rayed after injuring it on the opening kickoff. The tests were inconclusive; he will see a specialist today.
Offord, who is coming back from a torn knee ligament, has been working as the Vikings' second-team strong safety and also is a major component of their special teams.
Rookie Greg Blue took Offord's place with the second team. Players who did not suit up for the game included receiver Kevin Kasper (ankle), running back Mewelde Moore (knee), cornerback Charles Gordon (knee), linebacker Marcus Lawrence (knee) and receiver Koren Robinson (excused).
The start of the game was delayed because of a summer thunderstorm that rolled through the Pittsburgh area Saturday night. Heavy rains started late Saturday afternoon but stopped long enough for pregame warmups. But with lightning apparently still in the area, officials made the decision to delay the start time 15 minutes, until 7:15 Twin Cities time.
Do preseason records mean anything? Typically, they do not.
But consider this: Of the six men who preceded Brad Childress as the Vikings' head coach, two have had winning preseasons in their inaugural season.
Those two men, Jerry Burns in 1986 and Dennis Green in 1992, are the only two Vikings coaches to post winning records in their first season as Vikings coach. A look at each instance:
â€¢ In 1961, Norm Van Brocklin was 0-5 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 3-11.
â€¢ In 1967, Bud Grant was 2-3 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 3-8-3.
â€¢ In 1984, Les Steckel was 1-3 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 3-13.
â€¢ In 1986, Burns was 3-1 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 9-7.
â€¢ In 1992, Green was 4-0 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 11-5.
â€¢ In 2002, Mike Tice was 2-2 in the preseason. The Vikings finished 6-10.
When the Vikings placed linebacker Chad Greenway on injured reserve Wednesday, they were unable to fill his roster spot because of a relatively obscure NFL rule. Because Greenway has less than four years of professional experience, he would have had to pass through waivers for the Vikings to return their training camp roster to a full 84.
The Vikings, of course, chose not to risk losing their first-round draft pick. The NFL adopted the rule several years ago to discourage teams from the long-practiced routine of stashing rookie prospects on injured reserve with semi-conjured injuries; now, the player has to be important enough to lose a training camp roster spot to shelve him.
â€¢ Saturday night marked the 2006 debut of the Vikings' new purple pants, part of an offseason uniform update. The only other season the Vikings have worn purple pants was 1964. The Vikings also have an alternate road uniform that includes the traditional white jersey and white pants.
â€¢ The Vikings' captains Saturday night were nose tackle Pat Williams, fullback Tony Richardson and tight end Jeff Dugan.
[size=10pt]Vikings regain their balance, win with basics[/size]
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: August 20, 2006 â€“ 7:41 AM
PITTSBURGH - This wasn't fair, was it? Preseason games are the time for vanilla ice cream, not triple sherbet. They are for working on basic plays, for evaluating depth and for perfecting your anti-injury prayers.
So yes, Pittsburgh sneaked in a curveball during batting practice Saturday night at Heinz Field, opening the game in a no-huddle offense that had the Vikings defense on its heels. In their first six plays from scrimmage, the Steelers ran a reverse, utilized a rare five-receiver set and called each play at the line of scrimmage.
The surprise led to an easy touchdown. But the sequence qualified as the low point of an otherwise disaster-free night for the Vikings, who earned coach Brad Childress his first preseason victory, 17-10 over the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Steelers' opening TD march came after the Vikings lost 3 yards in their first series of the game.
Childress attributed the slow start to the weather delay and made clear he wasn't pleased about it.
"You can't start that way," Childress said before noting that his defense held Pittsburgh to three points in the game's final 55 minutes.
Asked about his first "victory," Childress quipped: "Well, you don't get on a plane to fly all the way here to get a whipping, so it beats the alternative."
With the exception of quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (one series) and Brad Johnson (three), starters on both sides played nearly to halftime. The Vikings held a 10-7 lead at that point, courtesy of a unique 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Wiggins and a 38-yard Ryan Longwell field goal.
Johnson completed nine of 11 passes for 71 yards while scrambling twice for 12 yards. Rookie Tarvaris Jackson made another strong case in his bid to be the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback, completing nine of 11 passes for 80 yards and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Carter.
Erstwhile backup Mike McMahon, meanwhile, struggled while working mostly with third-team players and was unexpectedly replaced by J.T. O'Sullivan in the fourth quarter. McMahon was 1-for-7 for 42 yards and one interception, a pass he threw directly into the chest of linebacker Rian Wallace in the third quarter.
"I really wasn't comfortable out there," McMahon said. "I need to trust the offense a little better."
Running back Chester Taylor touched the ball 13 times in the first half, 10 on running plays and three on passes; Taylor netted 51 overall offensive yards.
Earlier, the Steelers had started their first possession on their 45-yard line. Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher surprised a soaked crowd first by sending out Roethlisberger, whose sprained thumb figured to keep him out of the game, and then with the no-huddle.
The Steelers moved 55 yards in six plays, opening with a 20-yard run by receiver Nate Washington on the reverse. The Vikings, still in the midst of installing a new defensive scheme, scrambled to keep up but were a clear step behind.
Roethlisberger soon converted a third-and-3 with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson, who sneaked in between cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper.
"We need all the situations we can get," Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "We need all the adversity we can get. That's part of why we're here. We need these kinds of things. I can't wait to see what happens next week."
The Vikings put that surprise behind them quickly, launching into a 76-yard drive. The march was highlighted by Johnson's 34-yard pass to receiver Travis Taylor, who found himself with a step on safety Ryan Clark down the middle. That play gave the Vikings a first down at Pittsburgh's 16.
On third down at the 12, Steelers linebacker James Farrior hit Johnson's arm just as he threw toward Wiggins. Safety Troy Polamalu had Wiggins covered, but Polamalu misjudged the flutter of Johnson's pass and ran toward the line of scrimmage.
The ball fell softly into Wiggins' hands, however, and he walked into the end zone to tie the score.
Kevin Seifert â€¢ [email protected]
08-20-2006, 09:11 PM #2
Re: Sunday's Star Tribune Articles (Post them here)
[size=10pt]Jackson appears ready to become No. 2 quarterback[/size]
Midway through Brad Childress' first preseason with the Vikings, an odd set of questions has emerged: Is Tarvaris Jackson winning the No. 2 quarterback job? Or is Mike McMahon simply losing it?
It was difficult to tell in the aftermath of a 17-10 victory Saturday night at Pittsburgh, where Jackson produced a solid outing while playing with the first- and second-teams. McMahon, on the other hand, played so poorly he was benched -- or, some might argue, put out of his misery -- midway through the fourth quarter.
Given the league-wide importance of backup quarterbacks, the Vikings might be forced to re-evaluate their plan for McMahon to back up starter Brad Johnson. If so, they will have to decide quickly whether Jackson is ready to fill that role or whether they will have to pluck another veteran off another team's roster or the waiver wire.
Without question, Jackson was the Vikings' second-best quarterback in training camp. He displayed a live and accurate arm, appeared poised in most situations and showed an innate feel for finding an open receiver.
In two preseason appearances, he has compiled a tidy 95.8 passer rating. Jackson nearly knocked himself silly with a few open-field running moves Aug. 14 against Oakland, but Saturday night he remained in the pocket and completed nine of 11 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Childress has been candid in assessing players during his brief tenure, and he has yet to say Jackson is NFL-ready. Childress called Saturday's performance "efficient" and said "he's played fairly well the last couple of weeks."
Coaches are developing Jackson for the long term and are moving him along one level at a time, as most teams do with rookie quarterbacks. But for now, Jackson has been asked to master less of the offense than starter Brad Johnson, McMahon or even J.T. O'Sullivan.
While Jackson has responded to everything directed his way, there is an important distinction to be made between executing plays and running an offense. The Vikings have Jackson focused on the former, but a successful No. 2 quarterback must excel at the latter.
Which brings the discussion to McMahon, who played for Childress with Philadelphia last year and should have entered training camp with a veteran's understanding of the offense and his role. Instead, McMahon is having more trouble running Childress' scheme than any quarterback on the roster.
Saturday night, his only completion in seven attempts came on what appeared to be a broken play. Receiver Jason Carter caught a swing pass that could have been intended for tight end Richard Angulo; Carter took advantage of the Steelers' defensive confusion and broke loose on the sideline for a 42-yard gain.
Otherwise, McMahon forced several passes downfield and was inaccurate on a series of short passes. Childress was clearly upset about a third-quarter interception, on a forced pass to receiver Billy McMullen, and ended McMahon's night after two incompletions and a sack prevented the Vikings from running time off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Childress deferred an assessment on McMahon's play, saying he wanted to reevaluate whether McMahon faced a heavy rush or whether receivers had run their routes correctly.
But McMahon acknowledged he is out of whack.
"I just wasn't comfortable out there," he said. "I probably need to relax and just trust the offense. ... It's just a thing where next time I'll have to do better. I can't worry or try to think about where I stand with [coaches] now."
No, that's for Childress and his staff. The raw numbers are frightening. McMahon has completed two of 11 passes this preseason, a galling percentage underscored by the conservative approach the Vikings have taken with their passing game. Together, Johnson and Jackson -- running the Vikings offense -- have completed 30 of 41 passes.
McMahon is pressing, forcing passes and trying to make a loud impact in an offense that doesn't always call for one.
The good news is that Johnson's superb preseason and his continued good health have minimized the problem. The bad news? The Vikings' rainy-day scenario remains clouded in haze.
08-21-2006, 06:43 AM #3Prophet Guest
Re: Sunday's Star Tribune Articles (Post them here)
Vikings Team Report
By Kevin Seifert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: The late-night arrest of WR Koren Robinson seems set to end Robinson's career with the team. Robinson's loss would be a terrible blow for a team already short on playmakers at the receiver position. Robinson was being counted on to make vertical plays down the field, to be a reliable receiver on third-down and also was going to be available to return kickoffs at a Pro Bowl level if necessary. For the now, the team will start Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor, with Marcus Robinson and Billy McMullen in reserve. None of those four demand much extra attention from defenses, let alone a double team, so defenses will be able to play whatever coverage the desire. It is not out of the question that the team will pursue a trade or sign a receiver who gets released in final cutdowns, but for the time being coach Brad Childress wants to evaluate all the players on his roster. . . .
P Chris Kluwe is healthy following offseason knee surgery, so for now he has won the punting competition with rookie John Torp, who has been released. Kluwe does not appear to have lost much leg strength and is adjusting to the new directional philosophy the team is implementing.
NEWCOMER REPORT: RB Chester Taylor's ability to carry the rushing load still was in question when the team broke training camp. Taylor spent the first four years of his career playing behind Baltimore RB Jamal Lewis, but the Vikings are giving him a chance to be their feature back. His versatility and pass-catching skills give him an advantage in the West Coast offense, and in his preseason debut Taylor made some tough yards on his own. But it still is not clear whether he can be a dynamic, explosive running back or if he will be a player who grinds out tough yards but rarely makes a big play.
PROBLEM SPOT: The team's depth at linebacker, which already was thin, took a blow with the loss of rookie Chad Greenway for the season. Although he was not playing with the first team, Greenway provided important depth at the will linebacker spot and also could have played at the sam spot if necessary. Now, the team's three starters -- E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber and Napoleon Harris -- are backed up by players whose primary focus in their careers have been special teams. It seems the team almost certainly will need to improve its depth through free agency or trades before the season approaches.
BREAKOUT/SURPRISE PLAYERS: LB E.J. Henderson might have been the star of training camp. In his fourth year, he appears to have found a position (will linebacker) and a defensive scheme (Tampa 2) that meets his skills. Under defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, Henderson is allowed to trust his instincts, run to the football and deliver violent hits. He is holding up well against the run, but he must still work on his pass coverage skills. Losing 10 pounds in the offseason has allowed him to run easier with tight ends and running backs, however. . . .
WR Troy Williamson, who seemed lost at times during his rookie season, has earned enough trust from the coaching staff to retain his starting spot during the summer. Williamson appears much more confident running routes, and few people recognize that his top skill is running after the catch. That open-field ability has not translated to success in kickoff returns, but Williamson is the team's best chance for big plays from the receiver position. . .
QB Tarvaris Jackson is not threatening the starting job of QB Brad Johnson, but Jackson has proved to be far more polished and composed than initially believed. Many thought it would take years for Jackson, who played at Division I-AA Alabama State, to assimilate an NFL offense. Coaches have limited the volume of plays he has been asked to learn, but he has responded to everything they have asked. He appears always to know where to go with the ball, and he displayed instinctive open-field running ability in his preseason debut. At this rate, Jackson could be ready to challenge for the starting job sooner than expected -- possibly as early as 2007.
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