Thursday, December 11, 2008

T-Jack back in the saddle

It's official...Gus Frerotte will miss at least two weeks with a fractured bone in his back (ouch). That means Tarvaris Jackson will take over as the team's starting quarterback and, as mentioned before, that's not the end of the world. And there's a chance, however slight, that 12 weeks on the bench have improved T-Jack to the point where he won't be the same inaccurate, error-prone quarterback we've come to know and not love in his time with the club.

Certainly, his half of football against Detroit was promising. And yes, it was "just" the Lions, but it was the same defense that picked off Gus Frerotte twice in the first half and limited that Frerotte-led offense to just three points. If head coach Brad Childress sticks with a run-first game plan that mixes in short, high-percentage passes, Jackson could be a moderately effective quarterback, or at least effective enough to let the defense and running game get the job done.

Regardless of who plays quarterback, however, the bigger challenge against the Cardinals might be in stopping their potent offense, which leads the league in points scored. The Cardinals play right into the Vikings' weaknesses on defense. No team has thrown more passes than the Arizona Cardinals, and they're the only team in the league with fewer than 1,000 yards rushing and one of two with fewer than 300 rushes. They'll pass first and pass often, mixing in just a few runs. Both last week against Detroit and two weeks ago against Chicago, the Vikings frequently used a nickel package on first and second down and, even after seeing what passes for Benny Sapp's defense, I'd still rather have him on the field than Napoleon Harris against a heavy passing team like the Cardinals.

Still, regardless of how the defense plays, most of the attention will be directed at Tarvaris Jackson and how he performs against a relatively soft (23rd in points allowed) Cardinals D. The Cards are only 10th in yards allowed, though, which might lead one to believe that the offense tends to turn it over fairly often and give up a short field. Sure enough, Kurt Warner has 12 interceptions and nine fumbles. With all his pass attempts, though, Warner's only been sacked 20 times on the season, a very good 3.8% clip.

The worst-case scenario for the Vikings would be falling behind early and having to rely on the passing game and Tarvaris Jackson to beat the Cards. Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings' D will need to get pressure on Warner to prevent him from finding receivers downfield, which could lead to a long day for the Purple and Tarvaris Jackson.

John David Booty
, anyone?

No comments: