Jackson sees a new dimension he can add

Tarvaris Jackson isn't sure if he'll start Sunday or not, but he's confident in his abilities and the progress he's made, and he thinks he can offer something different to a 2-4 Vikings team.

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson isn't counting on making his first start since 2008, but if he gets it he says he's as prepared as ever.

With Brett Favre suffering two fractures in his left ankle Sunday night and in a walking boot Monday, Jackson could be the answer to the following trivia question: Who was the quarterback that started to end Favre's NFL record streak of 291 consecutive starts?

"I feel like I've come a long way, probably the farthest I've come from year to year, even though I didn't play a whole lot," Jackson said Monday. "Probably the farthest I've come from year to year over my whole career, so I feel great about the opportunity. I feel good."

Jackson hasn't started a game since Favre signed a two-year contract in 2009, making Jackson's last start a 26-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2008 divisional round of the playoffs. Jackson began the 2008 season as the starter, but he was pulled after two consecutive losses – to Green Bay in the opener and Indianapolis the following week. Gus Frerotte replaced Jackson, but when Frerotte was hurt on Dec. 7 that year, Jackson started the final three games of the regular season.

Last year, after the Vikings acquired Favre, Jackson played in eight games in mop-up duty and completed 14 of 21 passes for 201 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

"I feel like I've put a lot of work in. I've been working hard throughout this whole process and I'll continue to work hard. Now it's about continuing to go out there and make plays," Jackson said.

"I feel like I've improved a lot in the last year-and-a-half watching Brett.

Jackson might not be a typical backup because Favre isn't a typical starter. With Favre being 41 years old and playing through elbow and ankle injuries since 2009, Jackson has been getting more practice reps than a normal backup might.

"Brett, it's a different situation, him being a 40-year-old quarterback. Of course, you're trying to preserve him a little bit last year and this year," Jackson said. "He was beat up a lot last year and beat up a little bit this year, so of course I'm going to get reps in practice to make sure he's fresh and ready to go for the game."

Jackson said he believes he has improved in making protection calls and has more control of the football since his last start. He said Favre hasn't had a lot of time to spend working with Jackson because Favre has been busy preparing for games and hasn't participated in any of the offseason programs, but Jackson has said in the past that he learned how to study film better by watching Favre, and he has also learned how filter through the volume of coaching advice he gets and apply only what fits him best.

Jackson would offer the Vikings a more mobile option at quarterback. The Vikings rank 23rd in the NFL in sacks per pass play.

"I'm a different player. I can move around a little bit more," Jackson said. "Good things will come my way. I know I'm not going to go out there and operate the same way he's going to operate, but I feel like I've learned a lot from him. I'm not going to try to be him. I learned a lot from him that will help me play and be better."

"… (Mobility) is part of my game. I'm not saying that's what we need for the team or the offense to be better. But I feel like that's part of my game and I'm going to add that dimension to the offense."

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams said the team still has confidence it can win with Jackson at quarterback.

"I think (the confidence is) high. We've seen him all training camp. He was having the greatest camp of his career so far," Williams said. "I think we've got nothing but utmost confidence in him. I think if he has to go out and play, I don't doubt him."

But, no matter how bleak Favre's situation looks for starting on Sunday against the New England Patriots, neither Jackson nor Williams was ready to rule him out six days before the next game.

"We'll see how the week goes. I'm not going to rule him out," Williams said. "If he's out, somebody has to step up. But I see him going. Unless they cut his leg off, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. That's the type of guy he is, from what he's shown throughout his career."

Said Jackson: "With Brett, he's a warrior so I'd be real surprised if he (doesn't) play, but I'm going to be ready to play if my number is called."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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