The Vikings open minicamp this weekend, which will be the first opportunity to view second-round draft pick Tarvaris Jackson in purple and the beginning of the molding process for their new quarterback of the future. We examine that and other plotlines for the upcoming minicamp, which starts Friday.
will be a popular man when he arrives for the Vikings' minicamp this weekend at Winter Park.
The quarterback from Division I-AA Alabama
State was a surprise second-round pick by the Vikings in the draft and is considered the heir apparent to veteran Brad Johnson
. Though many expected the Vikings to take a quarterback early, it was believed the player would be Jay Cutler
, Brodie Croyle
or Kellen Clemens
But the Vikings had secretly targeted Jackson and even traded their two third-round picks to Pittsburgh on the first day of the draft so they could get the final pick of the second round and take Jackson.
"When you see what you want at quarterback, you need to go get it," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, the former offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles
. "That is exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson. A guy who is a piece of clay and has all the skills."
Jackson, who began his collegiate career at Arkansas
but transferred after two years because of a lack of playing time, put up impressive numbers in starting all 11 games last season. He completed 195 of 320 passes for 2,940 yards with 29 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Despite his success, Jackson admitted he did not expect to be selected so early.
"I knew (the Vikings) were interested in me, but I didn't know it was going to be in the second round," he said. "I was just happy they think of me like that and have the courage to take me."
Jackson has the talent to become a successful NFL quarterback but does need to work on dissecting NFL defenses. That will start this weekend as Childress, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rodgers get their first extended look at him. Jackson also will benefit from the opportunity to learn from Johnson.
One key will be learning the fundamentals of the West Coast offense that Childress will continue installing in his second mini-camp since taking over as coach in January. At Alabama State, Jackson played in a different system.
"We ran a multiple offense," he said. "We pretty much did everything. This year we were more of a spread team, kind of similar to the stuff that the Vikings did when they had (Daunte) Culpepper."
This weekend's mini-camp should shed some light on the Vikings' plans at middle linebacker. Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris saw the majority of the time there during the first mini-camps, but with weakside linebacker Chad Greenway being taken in the first round, it wouldn't be surprising to see E.J. Henderson in the middle. Henderson played that spot in 2004 before shifting to the weak side last season.
Greenway is confident he will be comfortable playing in defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin's Cover-2 system. "I think it fits me pretty well," he said. "I think I have the speed to play it, definitely. I played it a little bit in college, actually, and I think it's why they see the fit. ... They've seen me on film doing it. I think that it has an exciting upside for linebackers who can make some plays."
The minicamp will allow the Vikings' new offensive line to work together for the first time. Right guard Artis Hicks, 27, obtained in a draft-weekend trade from Philadelphia, is the final piece to a line that is expected to include Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, Steve Hutchinson at left guard, Matt Birk at center and Marcus Johnson at right tackle.
Cornerback Cedric Griffin, the first of three second-round picks by the Vikings, did not have an interception last season and finished his collegiate career at Texas with only three. Griffin said his hands are not an issue. "I don't think that I have to work on my ball skills because I didn't really get a lot of balls thrown at me in college," he said. "The thing I have to work on the most is my backpedal and my transition from my backpedal to my break. Other than that I think I'm fine and I'll fit in well with the Vikings."